Misuse of restrictive practices in aged care deeply concerning say psychiatrists

The confronting Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Interim report: Neglect, confirms the need for an urgent overhaul of Australia’s aged care system says the principal body representing psychiatrists.


‘This report brings into sharp focus, with quite shocking impact, just how badly the aged care system is failing to meet the physical and mental health needs of older Australians at a most vulnerable time in their lives,’ said the President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Associate Professor John Allan.


‘The RANZCP is deeply concerned by the body of facts highlighting the widespread misuse of restrictive practices such as physical and chemical restraint, particularly in residential aged care.


‘Psychiatrists delivering more specialist services in aged care facilities have reported hearing regular stories from those working in residential care about the inappropriate application of restraint; this report provides robust evidence of this,’ said Associate Professor Allan.


‘The misuse of these practices not only impacts wellbeing and violates the fundamental rights of older Australians, but can also lead to substantial deleterious physical and severe mental conditions including falls, cognitive decline and even premature death.


The RANZCP is committed to achieving the aim of reducing and where possible eliminating the inappropriate use of seclusion and prescriptions for chemical restraint.


Associate Professor Allan emphasised that psychiatrists have a significant role in advising on managing behavioural outcomes from mental illness, including de-prescribing medication for older people.


‘This is where effective prevention and early intervention aimed at identifying, assessing and/or treating the risk factors and symptoms of emotional and behavioural disturbance that may lead to mental illness is so fundamental.


‘The skills, training, experiences and attitudes of all staff involved in the care of older people, including allied health professionals, aged care workers and general practitioners, are also a critical aspect of reducing these practices.


‘Key opportunities for improvement within the aged care system will have to include workforce capacity and training, enhanced regulatory oversight and transparency, and greater early access to specialist mental health care for older people.’


Associate Professor Allan said the RANZCP was committed to working with government and aged care stakeholders to firmly place the focus on the promotion of independence, quality of life and dignity for all older Australians.


For more information, see the RANZCP's submission the the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.


3 November 2019.