A nurse has pled guilty to drugging her Alzheimer’s patients for no apparent reason other than to keep them quiet during her work shifts, reports The Herald Sun. Sadly, the nurse’s illegal, unethical, and unprofessional behavior led to one elderly patient’s tragic death. The elderly woman, Rachel Holliday, 84, died of pneumonia brought about by morphine toxicity. Six other patients also were hospitalized due to the nurse’s wrongful actions.
The nurse, Angela Almore, plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and six counts of patient abuse. Though she sobbed throughout the hearing, she did not speak specifically about her crimes or apologize for her actions. Almore, who is a registered nurse, was working in the Alzheimer’s unit on February 13 and 14, 2010. According to the district attorney’s office, she made statements indicating she did not want to see her patients on those nights and that she had given them something to “relax.” She even bragged “‘she [had] knocked all their asses out.’”
In fact, the nurse had drugged her patients with strong opiates. All 14 patients in the unit tested positive for opiates, but only 1 of them had been prescribed morphine. One elderly woman, Rachel Holliday, went into acute respiratory distress on the night of February 14th. She, too, tested positive for opiates, though she had never been prescribed the drug. Several other patients in the Alzheimer’s unit exhibited signs of respiratory problems and lethargy. All of them tested positive for opiates; none of them had prescriptions for the powerful drugs. Ms. Holliday and her fellow residents were rushed to the hospital, but for Ms. Holliday, it was too late. She died from complications created by the un-prescribed morphine.
The use or overuse of medication to manage “hard-to-control” patients, particularly those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, is typically referred to as chemical restraint. Caregivers may choose to take the easy way out instead of providing each patient with the attention and individualized treatment he or she deserves. Some caretakers may even mistakenly believe they are helping patients suffering from serious illnesses or life-threatening conditions. Those of us working in North County nursing home abuse and nearby communities know when medicines—particularly opiates or other sedatives—are improperly used to control the behavior of patients, rather than to provide them with appropriate heath care, it is a serious form of elder abuse.
All elders have the right to be free from physical or chemical restraints that nursing home staff may wrongfully use to control or discipline patients. Family members should be on the look out for some of the following warning signs. For example, does your loved one seem unusually lethargic or disoriented for no reason? Or does your mother or father, great aunt or great uncle, or grandparent appear confused at times or extremely forgetful? If so, it could be a sign they are suffering from nursing home abuse. To learn more about the use of chemical restraints and associated abuses, please click here.
No one wants to believe their loved ones are being abused, but our San Diego elder abuse attorneys know it is more important than ever to be aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse. Many caregivers are wonderful, caring people who work very hard to care for our state’s seniors. Others may abuse their power and try to take advantage of our elders.
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