600-plus Ill. patients drugged without consent

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

After a review of 40,000+ inspection reports for Illinois nursing homes, the Chicago Tribune‘s Sam Roe reports that the paper found 1,200 violations (affecting 2,900 patients) involving psychotropic drugs since 2001. More than 600 patients were drugged without their consent. According to Roe, “The actual numbers are likely far higher because regulators inspect some facilities just once every 15 months, and even then they usually check only a small sample of residents for harm.”

The violations, many of which were caused by a desire to make patients easier to deal with, were “for ‘chemical restraint’ and ‘unnecessary drugs’ as well as cases involving dosages that exceeded safety standards or falls in which psychotropics possibly played a role.”

While some nursing home residents suffer from major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, the inspection reports show that many patients harmed by antipsychotic drugs had not been diagnosed with psychosis. They were disabled by Alzheimer’s disease, cancer or Parkinson’s disease. Some were blind or so frail that they could not breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank.

In a follow-up story, Roe reveals that doctors responsible for these dubious prescriptions are not held accountable, even when cited by government entities.

The Chicago Tribune‘s full series on nursing home safety can be found here.

AHCJ resources

Recent workshop

AHCJ’s Aging in the 21st Century workshop, held Oct. 16 and 17 in Miami, addressed many topics raised by the Tribune‘s reports, as well as the changing picture of aging Americans and key research and issues related to this growing population. Tip sheets and presentations from that workshop are available to AHCJ members.

Related tip sheets
Aging Nation: Troublesome Health Care Issues
Headlines an advocate for seniors would like to see
The impact of aging upon health care
Covering nursing homes and other issues of aging
How will retiring boomers affect the national health agenda?
You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide: Policy and Problems in Long-Term Care
Biology of Aging: Sources and Resources

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