If you are someone who has made the difficult decision to move your parent into a Texas nursing home due to his or her age and/or health condition, you probably worry that the nursing home may not be giving him or her the necessary care (s)he deserves. Sadly, you may have more cause for concern than you realize, especially if your parent suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently, an investigation of 15,000 nursing home facilities throughout America revealed that the staffs in many of them routinely administer antipsychotic drugs to their patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other illnesses and conditions for which such drugs are contraindicated. The top three drugs of choice for this illegal drug administration consist of the following:

  1. Haloperidol
  2. Seroquel
  3. Risperidone

In most of these situations, not only had no doctor ever diagnosed the patient with a disease or condition requiring antipsychotic drugs, but neither the patient nor his or her family knew that (s)he was being given such drugs. As to why these patients, most of whom suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, received these drugs, nursing home “caregivers” admitted that they calmed the patients and made them easier to control and handle. Elder rights activists have assigned the name “chemical restraints” to such practices.

Failure of governmental oversight

While the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 theoretically protects your parent and other nursing home residents from this and other types of abuse and neglect, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency charged with enforcing the NHRA’s provisions, has failed to properly do its job. As an example, the CMMS issued a mere 7,029 citations for improper drug administration to nursing homes nationwide in a recent four-year period. And of these, it collected only 3 percent of the “mandatory” fines. Why? Because the CMMS concluded that the other 97 percent of nursing home patients illegally dosed with improper medications suffered “no actual harm.”

As a further example of the CMMS’s failure to do its job, it placed a moratorium several years ago on the Food and Drug Administration’s prohibition against administering antipsychotic drugs to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients.

This newly revealed chemical restraint practice among nursing homes puts you in the unfortunate position of becoming your parent’s watchdog and advocate, especially if (s)he no longer has the mental capacity to know what drugs the nursing home staff is giving him or her. Ask your parent’s doctor exactly what drugs (s)he has prescribed for your parent and why. Then ask your parent’s medication nurse(s) what meds (s)he gives your parent and why. Only you can determine whether or not the nursing home is chemically restraining your parent.