Chemical Restraint and Nursing Home Abuse

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Sometimes it becomes necessary to place a loved one in the care of a nursing home. At these times, however, it is important to be aware of the risks that may come with putting the care and well being of your loved one in the hands of complete strangers. While there are more noticeable forms of elder abuse in nursing homes, such as using physical restraints or through financial abuse, there are other forms of elder abuse that are not as readily noticeable. One such form is the use of antipsychotic or sedative drugs to restrain residents of nursing homes, which can result in harmful, and sometimes fatal, consequences.

Chemical Restraint

While there are times when the administration of antipsychotic drugs or sedative medication are warranted, the term “chemical restraint” refers to the unnecessary use of such medications in order to subdue residents and make them easier to care for. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why nursing home staff may administer chemical restraints, including:

  • to limit complaints or poor behavior;
  • to make residents more accepting of changes;
  • to stop the abuse of other patients; or,
  • to calm agitated patients.

In fact, studies have shown that at least one quarter of nursing home patients are administered antipsychotic drugs, and that at least 40% of those patients had no appropriate indication for such use. Not only is the administration of chemical restraints dangerous to patients, but there are a number of other consequences that can result.


Naturally, there are several consequences to the unwarranted administration of medication of any kind. Chemical restraint can be dangerous for patients, not only because of the risk of dangerous interactions with pre-existing medications, but also because it deprives residents of the ability to act on their own free will. In addition, the use of chemical restraints can mask other health problems or abuses by rendering residents unable to call for help or report abuses on their own.

South Carolina Protections

Fortunately, under South Carolina law, there are certain protections awarded to residents of nursing homes. Under Section 44-81-40 of the South Carolina Code, nursing homes are required to provide each resident, or the resident’s representative, with a written and oral explanation of the rights, grievance procedures, and enforcement provisions available to him. While there are a number of provisions that are contained within the explanation, one pertinent provision is the prohibition against unnecessary or unwarranted physical or chemical restraints.

Contact an Attorney

Gaining a better understanding of the different forms of nursing home abuse can not only help you identify when a spouse or loved one is being abused, but can also help you fight back against these incidents. Working with an experienced attorney can provide not only peace of mind, but also the assurance that you have the assistance of a professional who can help you navigate the legal system in order to meet the needs of your spouse or loved one. Contact the David Aylor Law Offices today in order to speak with a skilled attorney.

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