The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has joined a class action lawsuit against a Ventura nursing home, alleging that the care facility gave unnecessary drugs to residents without the informed consent of the residents or family members. According to a news report in The Ventura County Star, the Ventura nursing home is accused of violating California law that requires consent from a patient, or a patient’s family member, before administering antipsychotic drugs. Prominent Ventura County physician, Dr. Gary Proffett has been named in the lawsuit for relying on nursing homes to obtain consent instead of obtaining it himself.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Overmedication or chemical restraint is just one of many forms of nursing home abuse or neglect that is tragically common in this country. According to a CBS News report, nearly one third of all United States nursing homes have been cited for abuse. The report states that 5,283 nursing homes in California alone have been cited for abuse violations. Medicare statistics from 2010 show that 24.2 percent of the residents in California's nursing homes were on antipsychotics.

The Rights of Nursing Home Residents

Residents of California nursing homes have a number of rights that must be protected. Patients, for example, do not automatically consent to whatever drug the nursing home or their doctor decides is right for them. These types of cases are particularly important when the patient has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. In such cases, it is common for nursing homes to try to control the patient through powerful drugs such as Ativan, Haldol or Zoloft. Many patients are unable to speak for themselves and it is the legal and moral obligation of the care provider to carefully explain to the family why the drugs are necessary.

It is unacceptable for nursing homes to use these powerful antipsychotic medications as a way to restrain residents or "shut them up." There is no question that chemical restraint is a form of nursing home neglect and abuse. Antipsychotic medications can have serious on even fatal side effects on elderly patients.

Nursing homes that deliberately understaff their facilities or those that hire unqualified staff members are more likely to use chemical restraint to make their jobs easier. If you believe that your loved one is being unnecessarily medicated, overmedicated or chemically restrained, it is critical that you file a complaint and contact a California personal injury lawyer to learn how you can protect your loved one's rights.