Gemma Vale, a fantastic freelance writer, was kind enough to contribute the following article.
Around the world, there are 36 million people who have Alzheimer ’s disease or a related form of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that cause mental decline and confusion. It is caused by damage to the nerve cells in the brain. Often, clumps of protein are found in the brains of people with dementia. In some cases, the nerve damage results from trauma or blocked blood vessels in the brain. Blocked vessels cannot deliver oxygen rich blood to the brain effectively and the lack of oxygen causes brain damage. This type is called vascular dementia.
Initially, your loved one may experience problems with their memory. They might also have difficulties with decision making and abstract thought, display disorientation about what time it is or where they are and behave inappropriately in certain situations. Depression is common in older adults with dementia. As the illness progresses, they could have gait and balance difficulties and loss of communication skills and self-care skills. In the latter stages, they could require round the clock care.
This is why many families are faced with the challenging decision of how best to care for their loved one. If a full time carer isn’t available in the family, a care home may be the only option.
Force Drugging of the Vulnerable Elderly
Unfortunately the term ‘care’ home may only be the title and nothing to do with the practice. The rights and welfare of the elderly may be overlooked in an institutional setting. There are more than 25,000 residents in the USA are being drugged with anti-psychotic drugs to control symptoms of dementia and to make them more docile and compliant towards staff. Most of these prescriptions for ‘off-label’ reasons are not approved by the FDA and are ordered by doctors who haven’t seen any combative behavior in the resident. Instead of providing supportive care and companionship to the elderly, nursing home staff may rely on medications to keep their charges quiet.
Sometimes, drugs are prescribed without the consent of the elderly person or their relatives. Finn Christensen was 85 years old when he was admitted to hospital with confusion. Just a day after his admission he was physically restrained and force medicated with two anti-psychotic drugs. He wasn’t informed before this was done, wasn’t asked for his consent and neither were his family members. Mr Christensen endured a 16 day nightmare as he was drugged repeatedly by three different physicians. When his family complained, the Medical Board refused to investigate, saying the drugs were only low dose and ignoring issues of informed consent and drug safety.
One care home resident dialled 911 when sick from being force medicated with four anti-psychotic drugs and morphine. Reaching out to the emergency services was a desperate plea for help, but instead of helping, her doctor gave her more drugs. She later developed a permanent disability as a result of drug side-effects and her doctor was never prosecuted.
The situation is not unique to America. The forced sedation of seniors is occurring in many first world countries.
Half of all care home residents in British Columbia, Canada, are being given anti-psychotic medication – the highest rate of drugging anywhere in the world.
In the UK, more than 100,000 people living in care homes are given drugs. Of 934 homes, a quarter use medication to control behavior and one home surveyed drugged three quarters of its residents. 82% of prescriptions were completely unnecessary and in the case of some of the homes, not one person prescribed the drugs should have been taking them.
Sick from Psychotropics
Seniors are at special risk from psychotropics. Age related changes affect absorption, kidney function and the immune system, putting the elderly at increased risk from serious drug side-effects such as heavy sedation, psychomotor retardation, cognitive impairment, tardive dyskinesia and drug induced Parkinson’s disease. There is also an increased risk of death in elderly people with dementia who take anti-psychotics. Despite the lack of evidence for their safety in this population, doctors and nursing homes continue to force dangerous and unproven medications on the most vulnerable members of society.
Don’t put up with it
If you suspect your loved one is being force medicated, contact Poliakoff and Associates today. We are a respected law firm with nursing home abuse attorneys who are experienced in lots of issues relating to elder abuse to give a voice to those who need it most.
Madhusoodanan S et al, Pharmacological treatment of the psychosis of Alzheimer’s disease: what is the best approach? CNS Drugs. 2007;21(2):101-15, accessedDecember 8, 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17284093/
Pamela L Lindsey, Psychotropic Medication Use among Older Adults: What All Nurses Need to Know, J Gerontol Nurs. Sep 2009; 35(9): 28–38, accessed December 8, 2014, doi: 10.3928/00989134-20090731-01, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3128509/
Pitkala KH et al, Behavioral symptoms and the administration of psychotropic drugs to aged patients with dementia in nursing homes and in acute geriatric wards, Int Psychogeriatr. 2004 Mar;16(1):61-74, accessed December 8, 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15190997/
Crisis Behind Closed Doors: Antipsychotic Drugging of Canada Seniors, Mind Freedom, accessed December 8, 2014, http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/psychiatric-drugs/antipsychotics/seniors/canada-seniors-antipsychotic