It’s “snowing” in BC – staff term for drugging of nursing home residents

So common is the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications by nursing home staff in British Columbia that it now has a name – snowing.

SNOWING:  a colloquial term used by health care staff for sedating an individual so they are no longer intrusive or distracting in their behaviour or the sounds they make.

Source – B.C. nursing home staff, www.saobservernet/news/

On January 12, 2012 Jack Johnson of Salmon Arm, BC died at a nursing home run by B.C.’s Interior Health Authority. The Interior Health Authority is featured in other cases brought to our attention at Seniors at Risk.

Mr. Johnson’s family believes that the antipsychotic drug Seroquel (quetiapine) was responsible for the sudden onset of Mr. Johnson’s frightening and debilitating symptoms and that it was at least partly responsible for his death, as reported by the Salmon Arm Observer, July 11, 2012.

The family describes Mr. Johnson as “the most joyful man you could ever meet” until he was prescribed Seroquel, after which he became angry and agitated.

Instead of reducing or stopping the drug, the doctors and nursing home increased his dosage. Jack Johnson’s daughter Dina Loeb says “When he went in there, he was still walking, talking, dressing and feeding himself. Within 10 days, he wasn’t doing any of that.”

The first time Dina Loeb heard the term “snowing” a nursing home care aide told her ” ‘when they’re agitated, we give them more medication. Your dad peed in the corner so we snowed him.’ Dina says a nurse at the hospital confirmed the term and told her it is common practice.”

The family brought their concerns about the effect that Seroquel was having on Mr. Johnson to the nursing home and to B.C.’s Ministry of Health but they were given platitudes and misinformation.

“They said Dad was quite happy, moving around, scooting here and there, but in reality, he was stiff as a board, mouth gaping, eyes rolled back, not knowing anyone.” 

In a meeting with doctors, nurses and staff at the nursing home, the family specifically asked that Mr. Johnson not be given Seroquel. But, as in so many other stories of institutional elder abuse in Canada, health care providers and officials refused to respect the decisions of the Johnson family and his substitute decision maker, his wife Florence. [See the story of 68-year-old Arthur Hippe and the Ajax Pickering Hospital featured in Seniors at Risk last month about how easily powers of attorney, representation agreements and other legal documents declaring a person’s wishes can be ignored by health care providers and public agencies.]

Mr. Johnson’s family is still seeking answers from the Interior Health Authority and B.C. Ministry of Health about what medications Mr. Johnson was given, why he was apparently forcibly injected with drugs, and why a syringe was found on his bed.

The B.C. Ministry of Health released its “Review of the use of antipsychotic drugs in B.C. residential care facilities” in December 2011 which stated that there are controls and regulations in place across the province to prevent inappropriate medication of seniors in residential care facilities. In February 2012 after receiving unprecedented complaints which precipitated a four-year-long systemic review, the provincial ombudswoman Kim Carter released a massive report, bafflingly entitled “The Best of Care”, also decrying the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication.

Yet, these investigations and reports appear to have had virtually no effect on the ground where it counts, and seniors continue to die in untold numbers across B.C. leaving a trail of grief and unanswered questions. It begs the question, “Why?”

Read the complete story of the death of Jack Johnson published by the Salmon Arm Observer July 11, 2012.

Knowledge. Compassion. Courage. Action.

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  1. ‘SNOWING’… We are becoming monsters. We should hang our heads in shame that this is happening right here in Canada.

    Comment by adessa — August 24, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  2. ‘SNOWING’… One of these days people are going to stop being such sheep, and then these doctors and nursing home people are going to have to run for their lives.

    Comment by tedandjeanne — September 12, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

  3. SNOWING… This is murder these drug companies should be held responsible…and doctors charged….why have we accepted these legal toxic drugs..that are killing people of all ages but especially our seniors. So happy this group has started!
    Thanks for your great work

    Comment by Candace Hill — October 19, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

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