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Nursing home allegation: Drugs used to 'chemically restrain' seniors?

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A San Diego, Calif., news station is reporting the allegation that senior patients in skilled nursing facilities in the area are being given powerful antipsychotic drugs in order to control their behavior, a practice that has been called “chemical restraint.”

Marian Hollingsworth’s father Keith Blair had been suffering from mild dementia, but after his rapid deterioration and death, she discovered he had been given the powerful psychotropic drugs Risperdal and Haldol without her permission. “It’s a way of controlling them. It keeps him in bed,” said Hollingsworth.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit advocacy organization, has launched a campaign to combat the practice, which can be very harmful to their health.

“Antipsychotic drugs are for the treatment of mental illness, not dementia,” said CANHR’s Tony Chicotel in an interview with KGTV news. “And now we’ve got studies that show just horrific outcomes for people with dementia who take these drugs.” CANHR has launched a website which tracks the number of patients receiving psychoactive drugs at skilled nursing facilities in California and reveals that that number does not always correspond to the number of patients with mental illness.

“When you see nursing homes that are above 90 percent of their residents are receiving a psychotropic drug, you’re wondering what the hell is going on there,” remarked Chicotel.

For example, at Collingwood Manor in Chula Vista, 57 percent of residents receive antipsychotic drugs but only 17 percent of them have been diagnosed with mental illness. Granite Hills Convalescent Hospital in El Cajon and Vista Healthcare Center in Vista had a similar ratios, 51 percent to 11 percent and 43 percent to 16 percent, respectively.

Explained Chicotel, “I think it’s indicative of a culture, an internal policy of some facilities to use drugs as a last resort and other facilities to use drugs as a first resort.”


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