By Mike Connors, CANHR Advocate
One of the reasons drugging of nursing home residents has flourished is the federal and state governments are hiding information on antipsychotic drug use by individual nursing homes. Nursing home regulators have the information, but treat it like a national security secret. As a result, the public cannot learn whether a particular nursing home is giving antipsychotic drugs to residents like candy, or is using them sparingly.
Except in California, where CANHR has just begun posting information on the use of antipsychotic and other types of psychoactive drugs for 1,238 Medicare and/or Medi-Cal certified nursing homes. Last month CANHR extracted the information through a Freedom of Information Act request after a 10-month battle with government red-tape.
The information shows that a resident’s risk of being drugged varies tremendously by nursing home, with some facilities reporting no use of antipsychotic drugs while others drug all, or nearly all of their residents.
For example, the data shows that Windsor Gardens Convalescent Center of Anaheim gave antipsychotic drugs to 66 percent of its residents, while Sun Mar Nursing Center of Anaheim gave less than 2 percent of its residents these drugs.
Consumers should use the information to avoid nursing homes that are excessively using antipsychotic drugs. Recent research shows that persons admitted to a nursing home are much more likely to be subjected to antipsychotic drugs if they enter a facility that uses these drugs at a high level. Put another way, it is often the nursing home’s drug rate, not a resident’s medical condition, which determines whether he or she will be drugged and put at the risk of premature death.
The California and federal governments should follow CANHR’s example and post this information on their nursing home websites. The federal Nursing Home Compare website has long disclosed information on individual nursing home use of physical restraints. This disclosure has aided a dramatic national decline in physical restraint of nursing home residents, dropping from over 21 percent of residents in 1991 to only 3 percent today.
Chemical restraints are every bit as harmful as physical restraints, if not more so. It is long-past time to expose nursing homes that routinely use dangerous drugs to restrain and neglect their residents.