Report criticises use of drugs and electronic tagging in care homes

Older people in care homes continue to be
subject to various forms of restraint, according to a report by
older people’s charity Counsel and Care.

Using furniture to stop people from falling,
locking them up, using cot sides or bed rails, restricting social
contact and using drugs to control behaviour are just some of the
ways residents are restrained.

The report claims that some practices “would
not be acceptable in a care setting for any other client group” but
are “fairly unremarkable” in care homes for older people.

“Where once we would have criticised the
Buxton [restraint] chair, that is no longer quite so necessary,”
said report author Alison Clarke. “However, there is no room for
complacency as drugs have become used more widely for sedating
‘troublesome’ residents. And electronic tagging has been
indiscriminately promoted as an answer to problems arising from
residents who wander.”

But National Care Homes Association chief
executive Sheila Scott said she was unaware of the use of
electronic tagging, and that care homes were carrying out doctors’
instructions when administering drugs. However, she did admit that
the use of bed rails and furniture was a “very serious issue”.

The research highlights developing
technologies, such as closed circuit television, alarms and tagging
devices, which have “changed the landscape of care”. It suggests
that while many people feel uncomfortable about using these in a
care setting, some new technologies can actually reduce the use of
direct physical restraint if used correctly.

Furthermore, residents can also be restrained
by care home procedures and staff attitudes. “If a resident doesn’t
feel comfortable asking for help to get to the toilet or to have a
bath, because staff make it clear that such requests are a
nuisance, the effect is restraint,” says the report.

Liberal Democrat older people’s spokesperson
Paul Burstow said the report turned the spotlight on the
“unacceptable” use of restraint in care homes, and that the
National Care Standards Commission “must stamp it out”.

Older people’s charity Action on Elder Abuse
pointed out that one in 20 older people had suffered some form of
abuse, with a quarter of cases taking place in residential care
settings. Chairperson Peter Westland said the charity was concerned
“about the level of denial that such abuse exists”.

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