Recent Study Shows that Use of Antipsychotics to Chemically Restrain Nursing Home Residents Directly Aggravates Dementia-Related Agitation

Studies show that one in five adults residing in nursing homes experience agitation, which can manifest itself as irritability, apathy, or depression. While agitation occurs in adults who are relatively healthy, it becomes problematic when adults who have dementia become agitated because these cases of agitation are more likely to progress into more serious phases. In a study titled “Dementia-Related Agitation,” available in the November 2011 Journal of American Medical Directors Association, John B. Morley studies the relationship between dementia and agitation in nursing home residents and proposes some solutions to this issue.

One cause of agitation is pain. Therefore, it is very important for nursing homes to have high-quality pain management programs such as music therapy, dance therapy, and pet therapy. Psychosocial interactions and exercise therapy have proven to be the most effective treatments for pain management. However, for any of these treatments to reach their full potential in terms of effectiveness, caretakers must be thoroughly educated in these areas and must be provided the tools and resources necessary to implement such programs by the nursing home’s owners and operators. For this and for many other reasons stressed in the series of articles published in this nursing home and elder abuse blog, It is critical for you to ensure that your loved one’s care facility is adequately staffed and that your loved one is being properly cared for by a knowledgeable and well trained staff. If you watch your loved ones like a hawk, you will instinctively know when a facility is not only understaffed, but also undertrained and not properly supplied with the resources it needs.

Malnutrition also factors in to the causes of agitation. A lack in nutrients can cause visual and oratory problems that may hinder the ability to see or hear and consequently increase the risk of agitation. Additionally, studies have proven that there is little evidence to support that the use of feeding tubes helps to improve nutrition in elderly adults.

A final common cause of agitation is delirium. It is often a consequence of polypharmacy, which is the excessive use of multiple prescribed drugs simultaneously. Since the use of drugs is a direct cause of delirium, and thus agitation as well, it is only logical to conclude that agitation should not be treated by using additional drugs. Specialists confirm that the best treatment for agitation is behavioral, not chemical.

However, some nursing homes may not have your loved one’s best interest at heart. Such facilities may be using drugs such as antipsychotics to chemically restrain elderly adults who suffer from agitation in order to subdue them and make them easier to handle. Furthermore, evidence has shown that use of antipsychotics may increase the risk of falls, mortality, and hip fractures. Not only is this is a direct violation of your loved one’s Patients’ Rights, but it can also be detrimental to his or her physical and mental well-being.


If your loved one resides in a nursing home in Orange County, Riverside, or Pomona, suffers from dementia-related agitation, and is wrongly being chemically restrained, contact us today to see how we can help.