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Advocates call for ban on restraints


The government should scrap its new regulation on the use of restraints in aged care and work towards banning restraints altogether, a group of advocates has told a parliamentary inquiry.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights held a hearing in Sydney yesterday where public and consumer advocates, researchers and health professionals from around the country spoke about human rights concerns relating to the new rule.

The regulation, which was announced in April and came into effect on 1 July, aims to limit the use of physical and chemical restraints (read more here).

The committee announced on 29 July it would conduct a short inquiry in response to requests from Human Rights Watch and the Office of the Public Advocate (Victoria).

The group of advocates includes Human Rights Watch, Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia (ADA Australia), both of which appeared at the hearing, Capacity Australia and Dementia Alliance International.

The group said the use of physical or chemical restraints as punishment, control, retaliation, or as a measure of convenience for staff should be prohibited, in line with Australia’s international human rights obligations.

They are calling for any medical intervention to only occur with free and informed consent and medications administered only for therapeutic purposes.

“The Australian government rule is trying to regulate abusive practices that harm older people rather than prohibit them,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch.

ADA Australia CEO Geoff Rowe said aged care residents were at serious risk of harm if the regulation was allowed to stand as is.

“Australia’s parliament should act urgently to ensure that everyone, including older people, is free from the threat of chemical restraint,” he said.

Aged care peaks say restraints challenging and complex

Patricia Sparrow

Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow said restraint in aged care was a challenging and confronting issue that could not be dealt with purely through rules.

“ACSA will support any effective measure that can reduce the use of restraint and is calling for a holistic approach where government, providers and community work together to better plan for our ageing population and set up a system that can continue to improve and provide the best quality care,” Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“ACSA and its members are primarily motivated by providing the best quality care and will seek to meet with Human Rights Watch and other groups to explore how we can work together to reduce the use of restraint,” she said.

Representatives from Leading Age Services Australia were also among those who appeared at yesterday’s hearing.

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said the use of chemical or physical restraint was a complex issue in aged care where behaviours could pose a risk to the resident or others.

Sean Rooney

“LASA believes that restraint measures should only be implemented after all other strategies to deal with these behaviours have been exhausted,” Mr Rooney told AAA.

“LASA agrees that the implementation of any form of restraint should occur via a multi-disciplinary team approach that supports the rights and wellbeing of all residents, as well as the safety of care staff.”

He said the wider community needed to better understand how dementia and other conditions impact a resident’s wellbeing and behaviours and aged care providers and staff need to ensure up-to-date tools and skills to effectively use a range of approaches to manage these behaviours.

LASA is calling for standardised processes for recording, reporting, monitoring and reviewing physical and chemical restraints as part of any restraint regulation and appropriate funding to ensure providers are adequately resourced to meet residents’ care needs, he said.

See related story

Signs indicate knee-jerk policy reactions could be new norm: opinion

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8 Responses to Advocates call for ban on restraints

  1. Anonymous August 21, 2019 at 2:59 pm #

    My sister in law has epilepsy that has never been totally controlled . My parents in law have used a tray table on her wheel chair to ensure that she does not fall out during a seizure and split her head open yet again. If you shaved her head the scars from falls during seizures resulting in splits and sutures would amaze you. Tjis is not a restraint for her but rather a protection just like a seat belt in a car.

  2. Rhonda Nay August 21, 2019 at 3:57 pm #

    There is no excuse for restraint.

  3. Anonymous August 21, 2019 at 4:39 pm #

    i thought the Victorian Government banned restraints of any kind Physical or Medicinal 10 years ago

  4. Anton Hutchinson August 22, 2019 at 10:20 am #

    Restraint is an absolutely necessary part of life, it starts when you are a child, your parents will hold your hand so that you don’t run out on street. This continues through your entire life and certainly in the latter days for some of us.

    Unfortunately people see the word “restraint” and either ignorantly or deliberately imagine people in perfectly good health chained up to a chair and nothing could be further from the truth.
    Depression, anxiety, aggression PTSD, etc and other behavioural conditions require medication it’s as simple as that. Just like any other stage of your life.
    Can you possibly imagine 50-100 people in any facility with serious anti social behaviour intermingling without these conditions being modified? It would be chaos, dangerous for both the sufferer and staff alike. How could you ever attend to their needs with them in a manic state?
    The last stage of your life requires the same intervention and individual care as any other time and the people suggesting that all restraint should be banned needs to be educated before they comment.

  5. Mary August 22, 2019 at 1:08 pm #

    It would be a lack of duty of care to these people to totally ban restraints. The people advocating for that have obviously never been confronted with people with dementia who lack capacity to make decisions around their safety or the safety of others. Like the Mental Health Act of 2016, it called for ‘least restrictive practices’, this has cut down on seclusion dramatically, but still allows for it, and thank the lord it does, if you have worked with drug induced psychosis as I have, then you know that you must ensure the person does not destroy the environment, themselves or others. Dementia in some forms is the same, or just the complete lack of insight, that if I stand up, I will fall over and break my hip, and probably die soon after. Or without medication I will lose my temper and belt that old lady in the dining room and probably kill her. And the families of those people would take you to town. In my experience in mental health and aged care is that it is last resort and a necessity, not something to make the shift cushier on the staff! Uneducated views are dangerous when it comes to saving people’s lives. Thankfully we have the peak bodies to put some reality checks in place.

  6. Anonymous August 22, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

    It is the same as Child Restraints in cars, without them we would still have kids being maimed and killed and being projectiles around crashing cars, they are for safety.

  7. Susan Watson August 23, 2019 at 2:31 am #

    People should realise too that without being able to use physical or chemical assistance in aged care homes as a last resort for some residents who are aggressive and violent, or a major risk of injury to themselves or others-then they will end up in an Ambulance and off to a Hospital, and guess what they do-they will use physical or chemical restraint, put the person on a special (1 to 1 care -which they are budgeted for), settle them and send them back. You would not want dementia residents on this merry go round, the hospitals expect the aged care homes to be able to manage this.

  8. Anonymous August 26, 2019 at 9:36 am #

    This is ridiculous, the restraints are there for their safety, it is not because the staff cannot be bothered dealing with the patients that day or anything like that, it is because without those restraints other residents become at risk. mental illness requires medication, in all stages of life if your mental illness gets too bad you are given medication. that is the same in aged care facilities. without restraints aged care facilities would turn into complete chaos which would lead to more elderly people staying in their own house where they can hurt themselves

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