Nursing Home Unlawfully Giving Drugs

a nurse gives a senior medicineHave you heard of the national crisis of “over-drugging” elderly residents in nursing homes? There is currently a very disturbing practice of medicating residents in order to keep the staff to patient ratio low.

This allows nursing homes to operate with lower amounts of staff per resident, therefore saving themselves money. This is occurring all over the country, and needs to be stopped.

It is is known as keeping them docile or has been called “Taking them to China” according to some sources. Whatever it is being called,  it is a disturbing and illegal practice.

Keeping them “Docile”

An article in the Commercial Appeal, a USA Today network, reports that a lawsuit was unsealed in a Memphis, Tennessee court that revealed a horrific national trend of nursing homes drugging residents in order to keep them docile.

According to the article, the Spring Gate Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center is accused of fraud and prescribing a resident unnecessary antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drugs even though there was no need for the drugs.

The resident’s family member stated that:

To his great surprise, the nursing staff openly admitted to (him) that (she) was being prescribed these drugs “to keep her in the bed,” according to the lawsuit.

Staff also told him she was prescribed the drugs “calm her down, to keep her behavior at a manageable level,” and “through his conversations with nurses and other residents at Spring Gate, (he learned) that Spring Gate’s unlawful practice of administering anti-psychotic drugs was not limited to (his aunt),”

The facility that the resident was at is owned by Memphis Operator, LLC. They were found in violation of federal law in 2013 according to the article. The United States Department of Justice issued a statement in February 2018 saying that:

Memphis Operator, LLC d/b/a Spring Gate Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center will pay $500,000 to the United States and the State of Tennessee to resolve allegations of false claims to Medicare and Tenncare for services rendered to residents of Spring Gate that were materially substandard, worthless and were provided in violation of certain essential requirements that the United States expects skilled nursing facilities to meet.

If you are concerned that a loved one has recently fallen, or is acting confused or withdrawn, consider speaking with the care facility immediately about any recent changes in medication.

Warning Signs

There are several signs to watch out for:

  • Drowsiness
  • Physical complications (for example, dry mouth or ulcers)
  • Confusion
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness or falls
  • Fractures
  • Seizures
  • Sudden changes in behavior

If you that your loved one is recently suffering from one or a combination of these symptoms, contact their care provider immediately and find out if there has been a change in their medications.

Dangers of Wrongfully Prescribed Antipsychotic Drugs

Most antipsychotic drugs carry what is called a black box warning. This is the Food and Drug Administration’s most serious warning.  It appears on prescription boxes and is designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks. They provide a resource to check to see if you or a loved one has been prescribed such a drug. You can visit their site here to search for medications.

The FDA warns that the unnecessary use of antipsychotic drugs kills approximately 15,000 nursing home residents per year. This is terrifying. If someone you loved suffered the above-mentioned symptoms and then passed away, please contact us. We want to help you get answers.

Multi-State Issue

Tennessee is not the only state that is encountering the over-drugging crisis. The following chart highlights Ohio’s share of long-stay residents who received an antipsychotic medication:


As you can see, this is a national issue that is effecting the lives of so many people. It is important to recognize the signs and report them immediately to your loved one’s healthcare provider. If you feel that your loved one has been given antipsychotic drugs without their consent, please comment below or contact me immediately. This is such a dangerous practice and needs to be stopped.

You can read the whole article referenced above here.


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