Human Rights Watch: Over sedation in nursing homes

The following video was published on YouTube by Human Rights Watch on February 5, 2018. Thanks to Susan MacCauley and Jason Burton from Alzheimer’s WA for highlighting it. Jason posted on LinkedIn: “Great new short video released to coincide with the Human Rights Report into misuse of antipsychotic medication in dementia care in USA. Hard to believe that we made these drugs legal for this misuse in Australia. Who could have possibly thought it would be a good idea to treat distress and unmet need through sedation?”

I’ve been writing, publishing and talking against the misuse of antipsychotics for years as well, along with many other advocates and activists including Leah Bisiani. It happens in most countries that I know of, and I also believe that BPSD worsens the problem, instead if improving care, as it claims to do.There are a number of projects specifically focused on reducing the use of anti psychotics as well, worth reading about, for example the HALT project in Sydney. It really is a human rights issue, and a form of chemical restraint and serious abuse.

It says on the YouTube post of this video:

“Nursing homes across the United States routinely give antipsychotic drugs to residents with dementia to control their behavior, despite regulatory prohibitions on this misuse of drugs as “chemical restraints,” Human Rights Watch said in a report and video released today. This abusive practice remains widespread even though the use of antipsychotics is associated with a nearly doubled risk of death in older people with dementia. The 110-page report, “‘They Want Docile’: How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia,” estimates that every week in US nursing facilities, more than 179,000 people, mostly older and living with dementia, are given antipsychotic drugs without a diagnosis for which their use is approved. Often, nursing facilities use these drugs without obtaining or even seeking informed consent. Using antipsychotic medications as a “chemical restraint”—for the convenience of staff or to discipline residents— violates federal regulations and may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under international human rights law.”


19 thoughts on “Human Rights Watch: Over sedation in nursing homes

  1. I believe this practice, which is more prevalent than most would like to believe, is violation of human rights and can lead to patients being declared legally incompetent. We are seeking relief on behalf of our relative, who is being overmedicated by her daughter who has medical power of attorney. Can you suggest how to belp? Thank you so much for your help.


  2. I believe this practice, which is more prevalent than most would like to believe, is violation of human rights and can lead to patients being declared legally incompetent. We are seeking relief on behalf of our relative, who is being overmedicated by her daughter who has medical power of attorney. Can you suggest how to belp? Thank you so much for your help.


  3. Hello Kate

    Thanks also from me for sharing this video. I was taken with the quote: “One of the few things that a person has left when they are in a nursing home is the ability to relate to people and communicate and interact with their family and other people living there and staff. And that is what these drugs for no good reason deprive people of.”
    I’m about half-way through a new book – Lost Connections, by Johann Hari. It is basically about depression, but the research findings mirror the findings that the video highlights. The book fundamentally states that drugs are rarely successful at ‘treating’ depression and what works best is connection with other people in a meaningful way.
    Keep up the great work. We’ll get a Taylor-Made coffee arranged soon.

    Cheers, Jim


  4. Hi Kate, Thanks for sharing this timely reminder of the impact of inappropriate antipsychotic use on people with dementia, a task centred rather than person centred rights based approach to dementia care. Annie


    • Sadly Annie, I not sure I’ve ever seen too many examples of Person Centred Care… too many fixated on so called BPSD, and until we fix the root causes of the problem I’m not sure much will change


  5. Great video, Kate – thanks for reposting. On a related issue, I read an article today about a recent study of kids in a WA juvenile detention centre which showed that 9 out of 10 had at least one form of severe brain impairment (!)
    It seems that as a society we don’t deal very well with people who ‘behave badly’ (as the report suggests) – we either drug them or lock them up – or both!
    Hope all is going well with you, anita x


  6. What a wonderful video Kate-thank you sooo much for sharing-it was very fascinating and i enjoyed watching it and all the things in the video is so true. My family can afford a few hours of home help but can’t afford 24/7 care-we can only afford residential care if we sell there house or there batch. Lewy body Dementia is the most awful type of Dementia and i watched a lovely lady fade from it-my godmother was a caregiver(companion)and i visited her sometimes. It feels like you have your “old’ mum or dad back when you visit them-when i have visited my Grandad in respite care i feel i have my “old” Grandad back-feels so spiritual being there. I was reading an article the other day about a woman being beaten up by her caregiver and her caregiver videoing here getting change-very disrespectful-OMG!Very inappropriate and was very shocked and saddened reading this-i can feel her families pain and sorrow. Fortunately do one has done that to my Grandad-very over the top!Well Kate thats it from me for now, take care


      • Your most welcome-hope your husband has a wonderful time in Auckland-bummer you cant be there though. Weather is very hot in Auckland so he will love the heat i’m sure!i love the heat!Hopefully next time but in the meantime looking forward to keeping in touch on this blog!


  7. It is so true. Instead of training staff to provde quality of life it is easy to sedate and use anti…..
    to manage our behaviour which is causing theirs. It is heart breaking to see them all lifeless in the chair in the movie. Specially lady with a dulls in pram.


  8. Thank you Kate and also Dementia WA for highlighting this video. Every single person should get to see this short video, and then act on it!!! The video is presented in such a simple explanation regarding the misuse of antipsychotic medications, which is happening all over the world!!! Jenny xx


  9. Thanks for the mention Kate. I agree with you, a human-rights-based approach is a sensible way forward.

    Along with the HRW video there was also a 165 page report. I pulled 15 of the most powerful quotes (from people such as yourself), from the report and created a post here:

    There is also a link from which the full report may be downloaded.


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