On January 10, 2012, Bloomberg News featured a story about Omnicare, a pharmaceutical company, that adjusted its billing records and reported false information to government health programs, such as Medicare and Medi-Cal, in order to increase its own profits. According to the report, the government may have lost millions of dollars from Omnicare’s fraud. Despite the story making it to news headlines, the truth of the matter is that health facilities cheat the government fairly often. Previously, Bloomberg News reported another situation that involved nursing homes that were incorrectly billing Medicare. To read more about that story, click here.
Incentives for cheating the government vary. In some cases, such as this most recent one, companies are simply seeking profit. In other situations, health facilities take advantage of Medicare by unnecessarily ordering drugs that were never prescribed by doctors. These drugs are usually used by nurses to chemically restrain patients. Antipsychotic drugs are the most common chemical restraints because of their power to sedate patients. However, these drugs that are intended to treat mental illnesses are more often used to treat patients with dementia. Because dementia patients are often subject to episodes of aggravation, nurses find it more convenient to subdue them with antipsychotics rather than to take the time to calm them down with behavioral techniques.
Specialists confirm that the best treatment for dementia-related aggravation is therapeutic, not pharmacological. Because aggravation is often caused by polypharmacy, or the excessive use of multiple drugs simultaneously, it only makes sense that adding more medications will only worsen patients’ conditions. Some types of treatments that have proven effective are pet and music therapy, as well as encouraging social interaction among patients, especially during mealtimes.
Beyond the ethical implications of using drugs to restrain patients, the improper use of antipsychotic drugs also poses many risks. Studies have shown that the use of antipsychotics in dementia patients more than doubles their chances of death. Additionally, patients are put at a higher risk for falls, depression, and isolation. You should also learn more about the dangers of physical restraints, and make sure that your loved one is not being restrained in any way by his or her nursing home, either physical or chemical.
Although the use of chemical restraints is an undoubtedly cruel act, nurses sometimes feel that they are left with no other choice. Nursing homes are often so understaffed that caregivers must take shortcuts in order to provide enough time to tend to each of their patients. Unfortunately, this abbreviated care is never sufficient in providing your loved one with the quality of care that he or she needs.
There are many laws with which your loved one’s skilled nursing facility may not be complying. As residents of a skilled nursing facility, each and every individual has an inherent set of Patients’ Rights. These laws provide guidelines for minimum staffing levels, quality of care, and the right to refuse treatments and medications, such as antipsychotics. As experts in Los Angeles nursing home neglect litigation, the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushlami would like to make you aware of the rights you or your loved one has, as well as offer legal support if those rights have been violated. Contact us today for a free consultation.