Sometimes a nursing home resident becomes combative. For example, if a resident has bipolar disorder and is going through a manic phase, they may become physically violent towards other residents or staff members. A bipolar resident who has become violent may need a mood stabilizer for their own safety and the safety of others.
However, some nursing home staff try to cut corners in their work and will provide a resident with a sedative or other mood-altering drug even if the resident does not need one. Being given a sedative can make a resident compliant and sleepy, making them easier to care for. However, wrongfully sedating a resident violates their best interests and is against the law.
Federal law prohibits the unnecessary chemical restraint of nursing home residents. A chemical restraint is a medication that is wrongfully given as a means of disciplining a nursing home resident or if it is given simply to make the nursing home staff’s duties easier. Chemical restraints should only be given if they are medically necessary.
The dangers of chemical restraints
A variety of drugs fall under the umbrella of chemical restraints and include sedatives, mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics. If a person is given one of these drugs when it is not medically necessary, it could have a significant and dangerous impact on their health. These drugs have significant physical and mental side effects. The wrongful use of these drugs can even be deadly.
Chemical restraints can make nursing home residents more dependent on care staff. They can make nursing home residents more forgetful, withdrawn and depressed. An elderly person wrongfully under a chemical restraint can become less mobile and more apt to fall.
Chemical restraints and informed consent
Chemical restraints are supposed to only be administrated with a doctor’s approval. The nursing home must provide both the resident and the resident’s family with informed consent before administrating the medication.
Still, many nursing homes do not provide the information necessary to provide informed consent. For example, they may gloss over or omit information on the side effects and risks posed by the medication. This way, they can unlawfully give your elderly loved one a chemical restraint that is unnecessary and could potentially cause significant harm.
Nursing home staff may be tempted to chemically restrain residents who pose no risk to themselves or others, as a way of cutting corners on their duties. This unlawful chemical restraint can significantly harm your loved one and constitutes nursing home abuse. If you have reason to believe your elderly loved one was unlawfully given a sedative or other mood-altering drug, you may want to discuss the situation with your attorney so it can be handled safely and appropriately.