Current system continues to fail the people it’s designed to protect

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Wednesday 16 January 2019

Dementia Australia is very concerned to learn of further reported instances of the misuse of anti-psychotics and restraints in residential aged care as shown by ABC 7.30 today.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said the story highlights, in the most extreme way, flaws in the current aged care system, as well as reinforcing the need for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to focus on education and building the capacity of residential aged care services to support staff to better understand, manage and support people living with dementia with the sometimes complex and challenging symptoms dementia may present.

“Australians need to have confidence in the system such that when they, their families and loved ones become clients of aged care they will be supported with the best health care system possible, along with staff who have current dementia training, knowledge and qualifications,” Ms McCabe said.

“It is crucial to form a partnership between the person living with dementia, family carers, their treating doctor, pharmacist and other health and aged care professionals to consider providing alternatives to the use of antipsychotic medications.

“Having clear roles and responsibilities of those involved in this partnership is also imperative to ensure that medication management, care practices and individual wellbeing is addressed in a holistic, integrated way.

“When it comes to anti-psychotics and physical restraints, in most cases, staff have an inherent desire to want to keep the person they care for safe.

“However, they may be unaware of the potential side effects of the medications, such as increased agitation, increased risk of falls, the potential masking of other symptoms or they may not understand that physically restraining someone could be a breach of their human rights.

“In Dementia Australia’s submission to the Royal Commission we are calling for mandatory levels of dementia-specific education and training.

“This would enable staff to consider and provide alternative treatment options such as administering pain relief, tailoring personal care practices to the individual’s preferences, treating pain or an underlying medical or psychiatric condition, correcting common problems like vision- or hearing-related challenges, or working with the family to engage the person in more meaningful and stimulating activities.

“Staff education and training are paramount to improving the deficiencies in the current system, eliminating the misuse of anti-psychotics and restraints, and treating people with the respect, dignity and care they deserve.”

Dementia Australia has long called for reductions in the use of antipsychotic medications in aged care. For reference The use of restraints and psychotropic medications in people with dementia 2014*.

The preliminary hearings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety begin this Friday 18 January in Adelaide.

*This publication refers to Alzheimer’s Australia. In October 2017 the organisation changed its name to Dementia Australia.


Dementia Australia is the national peak body and charity for people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers. It provides advocacy, support services, education and information. An estimated 436,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach almost 1.1 million by 2058. Dementia Australia is the new voice of Alzheimer’s Australia. Dementia Australia’s services are supported by the Australian Government.

National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500

Interpreter service available

(The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government Initiative)

Dementia is a National Health Priority Area

Media contacts: Christine Bolt 0400 004 553

When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia Language Guidelines.