Fighting For The Elderly, Vulnerable and Injured.

Is the use of chemical restraints a form of elder abuse?

On Behalf of | Oct 20, 2023 | Elder Abuse

There are many ways that nursing homes can neglect or abuse the people whom they are supposed to care for. For example, staff members may physically mistreat individual residents or steal their personal property. They might also choose not to respond when someone calls for assistance, leaving them to sit in soiled undergarments or to risk a fall because they attempt to handle certain tasks without appropriate support.

Sometimes, the medical treatments that staff members at nursing homes and assisted living facilities administer can be inappropriate or even abusive. For example, the decision to apply chemical restraints to an older adult can often deviate from best practices and may even endanger that resident’s safety.

What are chemical restraints?

Chemical restraints are sedatives and psychotropic medications administered to calm someone down, decrease their physical strength or render them unconscious. There are a host of drugs that nursing homes can use to change someone’s behavior and restrain them from unsafe activity. These drugs are potent and could interact with other medications, so there are clearly-established best practices regarding using chemical restraints on unstable or combative patients.

There are generally two scenarios in which chemical restraints are a medically necessary choice. When someone becomes extremely distressed, as may happen when an older adult has dementia, restraining them may be necessary to prevent them from harming themselves or fleeing the facility.

Other times, chemical restraints might be necessary because a resident poses an imminent threat of harm to others at the facility. Whether they have lashed out at other residents or injured a staff member, using chemical restraints for the protection of others is an appropriate choice.

Unfortunately, workers at nursing homes and other assisted living facilities employ chemical restraints far more often than they should if they were to comply with best practices. Barring those two relatively extreme scenarios, chemical restraints are usually not the best option for dealing with resident behavioral issues. It is particularly abusive for nursing homes to use chemical restraints as a punishment for misconduct or for the convenience of individual staff members. Chemical restraints can lead to a host of side effects, including a bad reaction to the drug administered.

Ultimately, taking legal action against a facility that overuses chemical restraints could stop a dangerous practice and compensate those harmed due to a poor reaction to those drugs.