Chemical Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse

Psychotic drugs are one of the types of medication commonly used as chemical restraints in nursing homes, as these drugs are readily available and many residents in the nursing home have mental conditions that require treatment with these medications. If there are too few staff members to manage the nursing home, it could be convenient for an over-worked and underpaid staff member to impermissibly administer such medications to unsuspecting residents. This is a violation of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, one that provides residents the right to live free from the administration of unnecessary and/or inappropriate drugs as chemical restraints.

Psychotic drugs are used to treat hallucinations, and/or delusions. Seeing or hearing things that are not actually there to be seen or heard, or a false sense of perception defines hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs that contradict reality, and usually quite strong. It is estimated that over 40 percent of nursing home residents have been given these drugs in violation of prescribing guidelines.

Illinois Citizens for Better Care

Illinois Citizens for Better Care is an advocacy group for nursing home residents. The illegal use of chemical restraints on nursing home residents is a cause against which the group has tirelessly advocated. The group has prepared a fact sheet on the use of psychotic drugs in nursing homes, and in summary, it is important to know the following:

  1. Psychotic drugs can only be administered to those residents who have been prescribed the drug by a doctor.

  2. Administration of a psychotic drug to a nursing home resident cannot be done without the written informed consent of the resident or his or her guardian or healthcare power of attorney. This consent has a time limit and must be renewed periodically.

  3. Nursing staff must have a plan in place to help the resident with his or her treatment.

  4. Nursing staff must document the resident’s reaction to the drug and must report those observations to the resident or guardian at the time of renewal of consent to administer the drug.

  5. Once the resident’s condition is stable, doctors and staff are to wean the resident off of the medication.

  6. The resident cannot be forced to take a psychotic drug, except by court order. Convincing a resident to take the medication by trickery is also unacceptable.

For more information on psychotropic drug use in nursing homes, you can contact the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services nursing home resident ombudsman at 312-744-4016.

You can also contact our Nursing Home Abuse Law Firm online or by telephone at (847) 869-9100 to discuss any concerns you might have about a loved one in a nursing home who may be the victim of the inappropriate administration of unnecessary medications.

Photo Credit: Greg McMullin via Compfight cc


Illinois Citizens for Better Care, Important Facts for Nursing Home Residents About Psychotropic Drugs, Chicago Department on Family and Support Services Long Term Care Ombudsman Program Fact Sheet