(CBS Local) — A scandalous new report is claiming that nursing homes across the U.S. are misusing prescription drugs in order to control the behavior of elderly patients with dementia.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), nursing home workers are giving over 179,000 residents antipsychotic drugs as a form of “chemical restraints” every week. “People with dementia are often sedated to make life easier for overworked nursing home staff, and the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse,” Hannah Flamm, NYU School of Law fellow at HRW said.
The 157-page report, titled “They Want Docile,” is reportedly based on HRW visits to more than 100 facilities nationwide and over 300 interviews with residents, family members, staff, government officials, and healthcare advocates. Some nursing home residents told HRW they were drugged without their consent. A 62-year-old woman in a Texas facility claimed she was given the powerful medication Seroquel without her knowledge. “[It] knocks you out. It’s a powerful, powerful drug. I sleep all the time. I have to ask people what the day is,” the patient said.
According to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the number of nursing home residents being given antipsychotic drugs dropped from 24 percent in 2011 to under 16 percent in 2017. Dr. Jerry Gurwitz at the University of Massachusetts Medical School called the drop “one of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen” in an interview with the Associated Press however, Gurwitz feared that nursing homes are finding new medications that don’t draw the same attention as antipsychotics to sedate patients.
According to the report, the misdiagnosed use of drugs on older patients with dementia nearly doubled the person’s risk of death. “Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual’s ability to interact with others,” HRW warns.