The University of Tasmania survey of more than 11,000 residents in 150 audited homes found two-thirds were taking tranquillizers, anti-psychotics or anti-depressants – despite research showing that they have limited benefits for residents and are linked to serious health risks including strokes, falls and seizures.
The Royal College of GPs says it’s proof that aged care homes are no longer “safe places”.
We agree that the findings are very concerning, but the fact is that medication is often used to treat chronic conditions as well as dementia and mental health issues.
These drugs are not meant to be “doled out” – they must be prescribed by a GP and should involve consultation with the patient and family.
Residents are also required to have their medication checked as part of the accreditation audits conducted by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA).
Are some residents taking too many medications? Likely yes.
As we covered here, my mother-in-law was found to be taking unnecessary medication while she was in aged care.
Chemical restraint on the Government’s radar
The Government is taking this issue seriously however. Next July, aged care facilities will have to follow new quality standards which include guidelines on medication and chemical restraint.
There will also be a new serious incident reporting scheme so cases of abuse and neglect – including overmedication – are dealt with quickly and effectively.
Can more be done to cut down on medication overuse? We think so.
Previous studies have shown that implementing other strategies such as more exercise and activities for residents and educating staff on how to recognise and manage symptoms of dementia can cut the use of medication.
But these measures do require more staff and training – which most providers cannot afford considering the current funding restraints.
If we want this to happen, then we – and the Government – need to make it a priority.
With over half of our aged care residents living with dementia, it’s worth ensuring we have the best possible care for our loved ones.
A reminder as well that there are steps you can take if you are concerned about the level of medication being prescribed to a family member.
Ask the doctor at the facility for a review – registered nurses also understand what medication is being handed out. Speak to them and if you do have further concerns, raise them with the provider or the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.