Chemical Restraints Due to Nursing Home Abuse in Oregon

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Are Chemical Restraints Due to Nursing Home Abuse?


While chemical restraints are sometimes unfortunately necessary to keep the patient safe, it is essential that these patients are closely monitored for toxic side effects and overdosing of the medications. While this type of restraint is often used appropriately by nursing home physicians and other medical providers, sometimes, these restraints are used more out of convenience to make it easier for the staff. It is important to monitor the use of chemical restraints by nursing staff on residents as although the use of chemical restraints may be necessary in some cases, they are susceptible to be abused by nursing homes. Therefore, it is necessary to know the risks involved with the abuse of chemical restraints in nursing homes. But ultimately, sometimes the use of chemical restraints due to nursing home abuse is a real threat.


Not only can chemical restraints result in personal injuries due to toxicity, but it is also a serious constitutional issue.  Overuse can be synonymous with tying a resident up or handcuffing them.  This is the same type of restriction of liberty that could be like unlawfully arresting a person.  Indeed, nursing homes are supposed to be places where individuals are protecting from harm and well guarded, cared for, and medically treated.  Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are supposed to improve the quality of life and extend that quality of life for individuals who are aging or ailing.  It should not be used on individuals just to keep a nursing home less busy or to accommodate for less staff.


Which unfortunately restricting an individual’s liberty can make up for low staffing levels or a busy nursing home.  It can also slow down a problem resident or a resident who needs more attention, and therefore allows the facility to get away with not properly monitoring the resident.  As a result, the use of chemical restraints due to nursing home abuse and neglect is not proper in Oregon and is likely negligent or even criminal.  But unfortunately this is a common form of abuse and neglect that our Portland elder abuse lawyers may have to handle.


What are Chemical Restraints?


While chemical restraints may be necessary and may be used as an alternative to physical restraints, the use of chemical restraints may be abused and used inappropriately. Chemical restraints are psychopharmacological drugs which can alter an individual’s behavior, sensations and thinking. They are usually used to quickly settle a disturbed or agitated resident of the nursing home. However these drugs can have negative side effects which can include the following: 


  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Loss of memory
  • Greater risk of losing balance and falling as a result
  • Incoordination
  • Increased agitation
  • Extreme sedation
  • Diminished functioning
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of strength and mobility
  • Muscle disorders
  • Depression


According to the FDA and the AARP, chemical restraints are strictly not supposed to be used on patients suffering from dementia as there is a warning on the medications to not do so, and yet some nursing homes continue to use chemical restraints on patients having dementia. 


What Types of Drugs are Used as Chemical Restraints?


Chemical restrain refer to a number of psychopharmacological medications. Often sedatives or anti-anxiety medications are used to reduce a patient’s irritability and ability to move. While they can be prescribed appropriately and for necessary reasons, they also are often overused and used for inappropriate reasons. Examples of drugs used as chemical restraints include the following:


  • Antipsychotic medications – Common drugs in this class include olanzapine, risperidone, haloperidol and droperidol. This drug class is the most commonly used drug class for the use of chemical restraints. 
  • Dissociative anesthetics – These types of drugs are hallucinogens that impair a person’s ability to be intact with their surroundings. This is the least commonly used class of drugs for chemical restraints. 
  • Benzodiazepines – Commonly known benzodiazepines used for this type of restraint include midazolam and lorazepam. These drugs have a very sedating effect so these are commonly used to decrease agitation. 


When are Chemical Restraints Considered to be Used Unnecessarily?


Unnecessary use of chemical restraints include the following in used:


  • For prolonged or excessive lengths of time
  • Without proper monitoring of the person
  • If used in excessive dosages
  • Without a clear medical reason or purpose
  • If used inappropriately, causing serious drug interactions or adverse effects


Federal Law on Chemical Restraints


Under federal law, administering chemical restraints on nursing home residents for disciplinary reasons or for mere convenience is strictly prohibited. These medications may be only prescribed when they are required for legitimate medical treatment.


Nursing homes can only use chemical restraints on its residents in these two circumstances:


  1. A written order from a doctor which describes the circumstances in which chemical restraints can be used (i.e. a patient is harming themselves)
  2. Necessary use of chemical restraints on a patient to ensure safety of other residents 


In cases where the chemical restraints are used during an emergency without a doctor’s written orders, exceptions may be made for such a scenario. 


Chemical Restraints on Residents Suffering from Dementia


Both Medicare and Medicaid forbid the usage of psychopharmacological drugs for the prevention or reduction in disruptive behaviors and self-harming. But despite that nursing home facilities constantly provide these drugs according to reports by AARP. These facilities often administer chemical restraints to their residents who suffer from dementia despite the inclusion of black box warnings. 


The fact that these drugs are harmful is no secret. Both the AARP and the FDA in unison have maintained that these drugs are not at all beneficial for the residents suffering from dementia. In fact, they increase other health concerns in the individuals who are administered with these drugs. The possible health risks include the risk for heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, falls, or even the possibility of death. These chemicals are harmful to even active and healthy nursing home residents. They will render the resident’s ability to do even basic day-to-day activities like bathing, eating, or dressing. This practice administration of chemical restraints could qualify as medical malpractice.


How Can our Oregon Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Help You?


While the use of chemical restraints can be used appropriately and necessarily, unfortunately all too often they are used inappropriately. The inappropriate use of these potentially dangerous drugs can lead to serious health complications or injury. If you or your loved one was injured as the result of the use of a restraint (physical or chemical), you may be eligible for compensation. Compensation for this type of injury could include the following:


  • Past pain and suffering
  • Future pain and suffering
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Past, present and future medical bills
  • Rehabilitation coverage
  • Wrongful death damages including burial costs and funeral expenses 
  • Medical bills, including for emergency treatment, ambulance, emergency inpatient care, and medication costs, and
  • Other damages related to chemical restraints due to nursing home abuse and neglect in Oregon.


If you suspect that you or a loved one have been the victim of overuse of these chemical restraints, you may be entitled to compensation under Oregon law for nursing home neglect or abuse.  This compensation can help victims make themselves whole again by reimbursing them costs negligently incurred by a defendant, and also for pain and suffering.


Ask Our Oregon Lawyers for Help With Nursing Home Abuse


If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.


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