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Duffield, Lovejoy, Stemple & Boggs, Attorneys at Law

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Is your loved one under chemical restraint?

Finding an appropriate nursing facility in West Virginia for your parent was not easy, but if you were finding it more difficult to manage your loved one's Alzheimer's or dementia symptoms, it may have been for his or her own good. Aggression, agitation, wandering and sudden changes in emotions are symptoms many dementia patients exhibit. Without the training to deal with such behaviors, you lack the skills to keep your loved one safe.

When you went to the nursing home to visit your parent, you may have been surprised to see your loved one calm and sedate. Perhaps your parent slept through most of your visit or seemed lethargic. This may not have alarmed you at first since dementia symptoms can be unpredictable. However, if you noticed the same lethargy and sleepiness time after time, you may be concerned that the nursing home staff is using chemical restraint on your loved one.

Unheeded black box warnings

Chemical restraint occurs when a nursing home administers drugs to residents to keep them calm and manageable. Often, this occurs without your loved one's knowledge or consent. It certainly makes the job of a nursing home staff easier when the residents are sedated and less likely to cause disruption, but it can be extremely dangerous to your parent to receive the kinds of drugs that are common in this situation.

A recent report shows that hundreds of thousands of residents in long-term care receive antipsychotic drugs that medical experts do not recommend for their condition. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration placed a black box warning, the most severe caution, on these drugs, which typically treat patients with schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. Advocates for the aging unequivocally say no elderly dementia patients should ever receive antipsychotic drugs for the purpose of calming their behavior.

What are your options?

A nursing home that is using drugs to restrain your loved one is committing a form of abuse. The risks to your loved one include death as a direct result of the drugs or, at the least, the inability to articulate when he or she needs help.

If your loved one is living in a nursing home under these unacceptable circumstances or has suffered injury or death due to chemical restraint, you have the right to seek justice and to hold accountable those who committed these acts or allowed them to occur. Reaching out to a skilled attorney for assistance is a wise first step.

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