Understaffed Nursing Home Residents are Taken “to China”

Clean empty bed in a hospital wardAccording to a Dallas, Texas news outlet, there is a new term for sedating nursing home residents in order to restrain them. This dangerous practice can lead to serious medical complications, falls, and even death. The news outlet WFAA’s informant describes this practice:

“They said: ‘Take this lady to China,’” a nursing home worker told WFAA. What does that mean? “It just can be any medication that will put a person to sleep,” the worker said. “They took that lady to China, and she went to the hospital,” the worker said. “The lady never did come back from the hospital.”

Unnecessary Medication for Restraint is Abuse

It is important to recognize that the practice of chemically restraining elderly nursing home patients is abuse no matter what the circumstance. The practice is often blamed on the fact that nursing homes are understaffed, but this is not an excuse to chemically restrain residents. It is an extremely dangerous practice that can lead to death.

As stated before, when facilities are understaffed, this is an easy way to manage resident care. This is abuse. In regard to giving un-consented or unnecessary medication, Human Rights Watch states:

Federal regulations require individuals to be fully informed about their treatment and provide the right to refuse treatment. Some state laws require informed consent prior to the administration of antipsychotic drugs to nursing home residents. Yet nursing facilities often fail to obtain consent or even to make any effort to do so. While all medical interventions should follow from informed consent, it is particularly egregious to administer a drug posing such severe risks and little chance of benefit without it.

 They describe this practice as “chemical restraint” and as described above it is illegal. It is the care facilities responsibility to act and operate with the well-being of its residents as a first priority. When they fail to do so, or choose to violate their rights, it should be recognized as abuse.


According to this news outlet, understaffing is a huge contributing factor to this practice due to low staffing levels and inadequate minimum staffing requirements. They also claim that 70% of a nursing home’s expenses are related to staffing. In order to increase profits, they cut back staffing.

In effort to cut costs, troubled nursing homes may drug the elderly rather than hire needed staff. The practice has been dubbed “chemical restraints.” It’s a practice of using powerful drugs to sedate or quell agitated, disruptive or violent patients.But if used unnecessarily and inappropriately, advocates say the medications – particularly antipsychotics — are another form of abuse, and may be potentially fatal to residents.

This practice puts nursing home residents at risk for falling, complications caused by the medications, and much more, so that nursing homes can turn a profit. It does not protect the resident’s rights to age with dignity.

Drug Manufactures to Blame?

WFAA also claims that the federal government has caught drug manufactures pushing antipsychotic medication for improper use in nursing homes. Even though it is reported that nursing homes have committed to reducing the number of antipsychotic medications being used. This news outlet has found evidence to the contrary:

Before nursing homes can give residents antipsychotics, new federal guidelines require doctors to diagnose them with at least one of three mental illnesses, the most common being schizophrenia. A WFAA analysis of nursing home data shows that, after this new rule, the number of residents diagnosed with schizophrenia has skyrocketed 26 percent.

If you feel that someone you care about has been misdiagnosed in so that their care facility can prescribe them medication that they do not need, please comment below. This is a frightening practice and I am here to help you assess the situation and investigate your case.

Signs to Watch Out For and Other Information

Other important information that you should be aware of…

  • Most antipsychotic drugs have Black box Warnings – According to the FDA, a boxed warning is commonly referred to as a black box warning. It appears on a prescription drug label and is designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks.
  • According to the FDA, unnecessary use of antipsychotic drugs kills 15,000 nursing home patients a year.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, more than 179,000 people are given anti-psychotic drugs without the proper diagnosis.
  • Things to watch out for:
    • Has an elderly loved one been recently diagnosed with schizophrenia?
      • This is a huge red flag because schizophrenia typically onsets in people in their early twenties. There has been a skyrocketing amount of elderly diagnosed with this disease because it allows nursing homes to meet the federal criteria for giving patients antipsychotic drugs.
    • Know the difference between dementia and schizophrenia.
      • The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that if you believe yourself or a loved one has been misdiagnosed, ask:
        • Why was this diagnosis given?
        • What are the symptoms?
        • Who made this decision to diagnose me/him/her?
        • What sorts of medication are you giving me/him/her?
        • What are the risks of these drugs? Side effects?
        • Who is going to be monitoring my/their symptoms?
        • What is the plan to stop the antipsychotic?

https://careconversations.org/overmedication-warning-signs-watch )

  • 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

(https://careconversations.org/overmedication-warning-signs-watch )

 If you would like to read the full article mentioned above, please click here.

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