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“On paper, nursing home residents have strong legal protections of their rights, but in practice, enforcement is often lacking,” said the report, based on interviews with more than 300 people and visits to 109 nursing homes in six states.Ten years ago, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 270,000 nursing home residents suffering from dementia were receiving antipsychotic drugs even though such medications are not approved to treat that condition.
The advocacy groups’ long-running campaign was reinforced Monday with the release of a detailed report by Human Rights Watch urging federal and state authorities to take tougher measures against improper use of antipsychotic drugs.
“Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual’s ability to interact with others,” the new report says.
“They can also make it easier for understaffed facilities, with direct care workers inadequately trained in dementia care, to manage the people who live there.” The report also says that nursing homes, in violation of government regulations, often administer antipsychotic drugs without obtaining consent from residents or the relatives who represent them.
David Gifford, said a majority of the organization’s members reduced usage by more than 30 percent, while some others failed to fully embrace the initiative.
The biggest challenge, Gifford said, is to change a mind-set among some nursing home staff and some residents’ families that behavior arising from dementia is “abnormal” and warrants the use of antipsychotics.