Dementia is not just challenging for the person who has the condition, it can be very difficult for their loved ones as well as the staff that treats the person. Naturally, dementia is a difficult condition to treat because it causes disruptive behavior and outbursts. Instead of caring for the patient with compassion and effective methods of communication, some nurses and staff have begun using chemical restraints to subdue and sedate the patient. When Human Rights Watch published a report revealing that nurses and staff at hospitals and care centers are using anti-psychotic drugs to control their patients, many deemed this practice “chemical restraints.”

Dementia & the Response

The condition degrades the functioning of the brain slowly, almost deliberately, rendering communication skills, motor skills, and the ability to think analytically almost nonexistent. The patient goes through many trying symptoms during this slow, painful process. Not only do they lose communication abilities, they lose their memories, feel uncomfortable, and are no longer able to perform tasks.

The patient is often incapable of understanding the environment they are in at a hospital. These symptoms also lead to depression in addition to confusion. The factors not only make a person disruptive, they create a situation in which it is much easier for nurses and other staff to solve the solution with chemical restraints. The consequences, however, are dire. A specialist in medical and nursing negligence claims has been consulted on how to avoid using chemical restraints, how to create a restraint-free environment, and how to proceed when your efforts have been unsuccessful.

The Consequences of Chemical Restraints

The use of drugs to subdue patients is not against federal regulations for no reason. It is in fact very harmful for patients who do not need anti-psychotic drugs to be given to them. The research has shown that, especially for patients with dementia, it can exacerbate the disease and speed up symptoms. The use of these methods can slow down cognitive functioning, make the patient more confused, and limit their ability to respond to questions and perform simple tasks. By sedating the patient and creating a quiet environment for themselves, they are really doing a disservice to the person who they are supposed to be helping.

Preventing the Use of Chemical Restraints

To prevent the immoral and ineffective use of anti-psychotics to sedate patients, we need to focus on training and the family’s involvement in the patient’s treatment. Medical staff often use chemical restraints, they say, because they do not know what to do and the family is not around to help provide insight into the situation. The family being around to monitor the situation and provide intimate knowledge into why the patient is behaving in a certain way is very helpful to the staff and will prevent the use of chemical restraints.

But it isn’t up to the family to ensure that the staff does the right thing. They cannot be there all of the time, and it isn’t their responsibility to control the actions of the nurses and assistants. Training must be provided to the doctors, nurses, and orderlies to make it clear that chemical restraints are a last resort that must only be used in emergency situations for a short period of time. Communication training specific to dementia is necessary for the staff to understand how to deal with disruptive behaviors. If the behavior persists despite their efforts, they must go to their supervisor and look for ways to ease the patient and prevent outbursts and disruptions. It has been shown by researchers that staff get very little training on how to handle dementia patients. It is mandatory that they receive much more to avoid performing immoral and inefficient actions by looking for easy solutions.

Creating a Patient-Center Approach and a Restraint-Free Environment

To ensure that chemical restraints are not used frivolously, training and the family’s participation are crucial, but it is also key that staff are practicing basic respect. It is very disturbing to sedate someone against their will, even if their disease is terminal and their abilities to communicate are nil. They are still a person who should be treated like the staff wants to be treated. Simply because it is easier for the nurses and assistants to sedate them with anti-psychotics is not a valid reason to do so. It is the last resort, the worst case scenario, and staff should conduct themselves with these thoughts in mind.

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