There is growing concern about the use of chemical restraint of the elderly in aged care facilities, particularly as a first-step treatment or to manage staffing shortages.
Public Advocate Colleen Pearce said use of drugs in aged care is a significant concern for the sector.
“While medications are appropriate in certain circumstances, they should not be the only choice as, even in small doses, anti-psychotic medication can have side effects,” she said. These could include drowsiness and docility. Ms Pearce supports the collection of better data so that the industry, families and carers are aware of the issue and the true incidence of the problem of chemical restraint.
About half of people in residential aged care facilities and up to 80 per cent of those with dementia are receiving psychotropics, although this varies between facilities, according to research by Alzheimer’s Australia. Physical restraint is also used on aged care residents, though it is less common, with up to 49 per cent of aged care possibly affected. This can include lap belts, table tops, bed rails and chairs that are difficult to get out.
Alzheimer’s Australia Vic chief executive Maree McCabe said there is a place for the use of antipsychotic medications, but the medications should not be the first option.
Dr Lisa Clinnick, from Australian Catholic University, has completed a Doctor of Nursing focusing on psychotropic medication and chemical restraint in residential aged care.
Her research indicated nurses giving psychotropic medication as a chemical restraint were “managing the behaviour displayed by the resident rather than meeting the needs of the actual person”.
There are now moves away from the use of medication as a first response.
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By Lyn Lucas