Chemical Restraint Alleged In Nursing Home Deaths

We’ve been following the issue of <"">nursing home abuse for some time. As a matter-of-fact, yesterday we wrote that a Brooklyn nursing home was ordered to pay about $19 million in damages to a family whose loved one allegedly died as a result of abject neglect. Now, ABC World News is reporting that a California nursing home used chemical restraints – drugs – to silence residents. In some cases, this practice was fatal.

It seems the practice was ongoing since at least 2003 at the Kern Valley Nursing Home, said ABC. Nursing director, Gwen Hughes would chemically restrain complaining or annoying patients with strong anti-psychotic medications, said ABC. Hughes’ practices were so intense that three residents at the nursing home died, added ABC.

Jerry Brown, California Attorney General, said that Hughes had a patient medicated for “glaring” at her; another patient was chemically restrained for tossing a milk carton, according to ABC. Brown said, “In a couple cases, elderly people were actually held down, restrained against their will, and given excessive amounts of medicine to keep them quiet,” quoted ABC, which added that patients were seen “drooling, dehydrated, and dangerously thin.” Worse, Hughes was previously terminated from another California facility for over-dosing patients, said ABC.

On a number of occasions we have written about the dangerous issue surrounding the dosing of medications to the elderly, specifically antidepressants, antipsychotics, and sedatives. Sometimes these medications are given for seemingly pointless reasons and, on occasion, these medications appear to be linked to falls and other accidents in the elderly. Science Daily recently reported that such accidents among the elderly are “significantly” linked with these drugs—sedatives to help patients sleep and drugs used to treat mood disorders—citing a study conducted by an expert in “pharmaceutical outcomes research” out of the University of British Columbia. The study was published in the November 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

We also recently wrote that the Chicago Tribune broke with an expose on how some powerful psychotropic drugs are given to nursing home residents in Illinois without consent and valid psychiatric diagnoses. Some have suffered from a variety of adverse responses that include, said the Tribune, “tremors, dangerous lethargy, and a higher risk of harmful falls or even death.” The Tribune said it found 1,200 violations affecting 2,900 patients since 2001, all involving pychotropics; however, it is believed that the figures are higher given the dearth of regular investigations. According to the Tribune, some sites only inspect once every 15 months, and generally only conduct spot checks.

Yesterday, three officials from Kern appeared at a hearing on elder abuse charges from 2003 to 2007 and included Hughes; administrator Pamela Ott, and Dr. Hoshang Pormir, staff physician, said ABC. All three, who pleaded not guilty, face up to 11 years of prison time, said ABC, adding that the preliminary hearing is scheduled March 9, 2010. Debbie Gayle Hayes, a former pharmacist at Kern accepted a plea bargain only if she can testify for the prosecution.

When seniors are abused—emotionally, physically, financially, sexually, or through neglect—the risk of death increases by more than double, according a recent study, said Medicine Net recently. Sadly, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data, anti-psychotics that are inappropriately prescribed, kill 15,000 nursing home patients annually, said ABC.

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