If you are one of the numerous Alabama residents who had to place your parent in a nursing home because of his or her deteriorating physical or mental condition, you likely spend a fair amount of time worrying that (s)he does not receive the care there that (s)he needs. Unfortunately, based on the results of a recent investigation by Human Rights Watch, you may well have valid concerns

HRW investigated 15,000 nursing homes across the country and discovered that many of them routinely give their patients antipsychotic drugs, including Haloperidol, Seroquel and Risperidone, even though the patients do not need them and have never received a diagnosis for an illness or condition that requires them. So why do the nursing homes do it? To control their patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other conditions that often make them combative and difficult to care for. Elder rights advocates term this practice chemical restraint.

Inadequate governmental oversight

You likely believe that the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 protects your parent from such abuse. It does. However, the problem becomes one of enforcement. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services oversees nursing homes to make sure they adhere to the NHRA’s rules and regulations. Their history of effective oversight, however, leaves much to be desired. For instance, they issued only 7,039 unauthorized drug usage citations between 2014 and 2017. Of these, only three percent of the nursing homes involved paid the supposedly mandatory fines because the CMMS decided that the remaining 97 percent of patients suffered “no actual harm” as a result of being dosed with unauthorized drugs.

You should likewise be aware that the Federal Drug Administration prohibits medical professionals from prescribing or using antipsychotic drugs on patients who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that are not actually psychotic. Nevertheless, the CMMS imposed a moratorium on these prohibitions several years ago.

Unfortunately, this leaves you as your parent’s only real advocate. Make sure you know exactly what medications your parent receives in the nursing home and why (s)he receives them. If no one will adequately answer your questions, do not hesitate to call the nursing abuse hotline and/or speak with an elder rights attorney. This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.