Three Years in Prison for Nurse in Elder Abuse Case

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A California judge sentenced the former director of nursing at a Kern County skilled nursing facility to three years in prison last week for illegally prescribing psychiatric drugs as a form of chemical restraint, hastening the deaths of three elderly patients.

Gwen D. Hughes, 59, who worked at Kern Valley Healthcare District hospital pled no contest in October to one felony count of elder abuse that contributed to the victim's death. She was taken into custody immediately after sentencing. The case marked the first criminal prosecution in California alleging elder abuse for misuse of psychiatric medication. The overuse and abuse of psychiatric drugs to control dementia patients is of growing concern nationwide,

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said in a statement on the case, "Elder abuse in skilled nursing facilities is a particularly heinous crime because vulnerable victims and their families have placed their trust in the facilities to provide quality care, preserve their dignity and enjoy a better quality of life."