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Human Rights Watch reports misuse of drugs at nursing homes

Families in New Mexico place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes with the expectation that residents will receive compassionate care. Unfortunately, abuse of residents is widespread in regards to dosing people inappropriately with antipsychotic drugs according to a report from Human Rights Watch. The practice is especially widespread among people with dementia despite a strong Food and Drug Administration warning against the practice. The drugs act as chemical restraints to subdue people that nursing home employees find difficult to manage.

The report from Human Rights Watch gathered information from government data and interviews with staff, residents and family members. The organization estimated that about 179,000 people on any given week receive these drugs without a diagnosis that would warrant the medication. Frequently, staff members give the drugs without gaining informed consent from residents or their relatives.

An account from a 62-year-old woman drugged unknowingly with Seroquel described it as a strong sedative that made her sleep all of the time. The daughter of another female resident said that her mother was a zombie stripped of personality because of drugging at a nursing home.

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 created many legal rights for nursing home residents, but government enforcement is nearly absent nationwide. From 2014 to the middle of 2017, inspectors wrote 7,039 citations for misuse of antipsychotic drugs, but 97 percent of them were classified as not harming people and therefore produced no financial penalties.

A person concerned about the treatment of an elderly relative could reach out to an attorney for advice. An attorney could evaluate the evidence to see if it is sufficient to file a lawsuit for nursing home abuse. Legal intervention might enable a family to halt abuse and recover a settlement for damages.

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