In Australia, staff at aged care facilities are giving older people with dementia drugs to control their behavior where the drugs were not required to treat medical symptoms, a practice known as chemical restraint. Restraining older people with drugs has grave consequences, increasing risks of stroke, pneumonia, and even death. Relatives of older people subjected to this practice described a dramatic deterioration: formerly energetic, talkative people stopped walking, eating, and, in some cases, became unable to speak, overcome by the sedative effects of the drugs. Older people and their families face obstacles to recognizing and complaining about chemical restraint, and can face threats and intimidation from aged care facilities when challenging the practice. Recent changes to restraint policies in aged care do not go far enough and leave older people in aged care in Australia dependent on the good faith of an aged care system that is not equipped to meet their needs.

 

Ray Ekins, 78, has dementia and was prescribed olanzapine, an antipsychotic prohibited for use in older people with dementia. His daughter Susan asked his geriatrician about significant changes in his mood and behavior. He told her that her father was old, and she and Ray would just have to accept it. Susan moved Ray to a new facility in 2014 which helped to wean him off the drugs.