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Dementia is no excuse for using chemical restraints

If you've placed a loved one in a nursing home knowing that they have dementia, you know how much support they need. They may have unusual changes in behavior, such as aggressive tendencies, or could struggle to remember simple things, like how to eat dinner.

When you think about their care, what you hope is that the staff at the nursing home will treat them like they would their own family members. Unfortunately, that is not the case for all patients.

One issue is that some may try to use chemical restraints to calm or otherwise immobilize a patient who is troublesome to them. This is unethical and potentially illegal. No, it isn't unusual to hear about physicians or others using chemical restraints to calm down patients who are agitated or difficult to control, but that shouldn't be the go-to solution when a patient isn't doing what the nurses or staff want them to do.

Chemical restraints can:

  • Restrict movement
  • Cause drowsiness
  • Impair the patient's ability to interact
  • Reduce a patient's freedoms

In a situation where a patient is in the facility's care due to dementia or other memory loss issues, this is hardly ever the answer. Unless a patient is a direct danger to themselves or others, there is no reason for staff members to restrain them or use medications to do so.

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 does give residents of nursing homes the right to be free of chemical and physical restraints when those restraints are being used to discipline patients or simply make taking care of patients more convenient for the staff. While these medications may have a place in some rare situations, using restraints as a way of punishment, to minimize the impact on understaffing or because of laziness, is against the law and completely unethical.

No elder deserves to be unfairly restrained. They deserve to live in dignity and to receive the support and services that they need to be comfortable during the sunset of their lives. If a nursing home or its staff is unable to provide adequate services without the use of chemical restraints, then they should be investigated, and you should pursue your legal rights.

Protecting a loved one against unfair and harmful treatment in a nursing home is essential. If you sense that anything isn't right, speak with the staff and find out if your loved one has been chemically restrained. If you find out that they've been harmed or abused, it's time to look into your options.

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