When I sent my friend and former registered nurse Sue T. a link to “human rights watch nails the crux of antipsychotic problem in nursing homes,” she responded within hours. Like the Human Rights Watch video, her comments nailed it. She referenced an initiative announced by Quebec’s Minister of Health in November 2017 (three months ago as I write this):
“I have read about the changes Health Minister Barrette is proposing to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs in Quebec nursing homes, but fail to understand why these changes will take years to implement effectively.
What has been done since Barrette’s announcement last November? How long does it take to say, “no more abuse” and prohibit the use of antipsychotic orders for routine care and management of dementia? Consider the unnecessary suffering residents and loved ones will endure until the bureaucrats get their acts together.
The auto industry recalls a vehicle the moment a problem is detected. Defective children’s toys are withdrawn from the market immediately. Grocers act quickly if contaminated food threatens our well-being.
The lack of urgency to immediately reduce the use of chemical restraints, not even approved by Health Canada for treatment of dementia despite the known side effects, including premature death, speaks volumes. The secondary effects of a drugged stupor include falls, bedsores and urinary tract infections, which alone cost the health care system millions of dollars every year. What is wrong with this picture?“
This sorry state of affairs is not confined to Quebec. It applies equally to the rest of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom as well.
Coincidentally, a Facebook follower (L.B.) who lives in British Columbia wrote this in response to the same HRW video: “…when Mom’s medication is decreased she becomes more lively (laughing, smiling, chatting, more aware of what is happening around her), and when she is medicated more she becomes like a zombie who stares off into space.”
I asked L.B. why the nursing home in which her mom resides medicates her into a zombie-like state when her mother is clearly better/happier when the medication is reduced. Her reply was telling.
“Apparently, the explanation is that Mom gets ‘testy’ if the medication is decreased too much,” she wrote. “I’m not sure exactly what that means given that Mom was always witty, sarcastic, and outspoken. She still says ‘No!’ if she doesn’t want something to happen with regard to herself. In my opinion, that’s her right.”
Of course it’s her right. It was my mother’s right as well. It’s also the right of hundreds of thousands of others worldwide who have been and still are inappropriately and abusively medicated into a stupor, just like L.B.’s mother. And just like my mom was for the last four years of her life.