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Experts issue warning on aged care restraints and COVID-19

Chemical and physical restraints are particularly dangerous for those living with dementia and diagnosed with COVID-19, and aged care facilities should explore alternatives.

That’s the advice from Dementia Support Australia (DSA), a HammondCare-led national service funded by the Australian Government.

The group’s director Associate Professor Colm Cunningham said ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and resulting isolation have created a stressful environment for residents living with dementia and added it may lead to an increase in behavioural and psychological symptoms.

Cunningham added that some providers may face the complex issue of how to assist a person with dementia to self-isolate in the event of infection.

“The need to keep everyone safe and supported is challenging for residential care services during the COVID-19 restrictions,” Cunningham said. “But we never recommend chemical restraint for people with dementia, especially in the current situation.

“COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, and the use of medications that might cause respiratory depression or render a person immobile is likely to lead to an adverse outcome for that resident.”

Physical restraints might also bring about adverse outcomes among people with potential respiratory infection.

“Physical restraint is always a last resort,” Cunningham said, adding: “Even in the case of infection and the need for isolation, there are a range of options to consider first.”

Earlier this week, DSA released a helpsheet to help residential aged care services manage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It recommended that if residents infected with COVID-19 were unable to voluntarily isolate themselves, one-on-one care be provided. If that’s not possible, the group might otherwise be able to arrange funding for additional support.

DSA can be reached on 1800 699 799 or via dementia.com.au

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