Restraint-Free Environment as a Child of a Dementia Patient

By on December 5, 2018
Dementia Patient caregiving

Dementia is not just challenging for the patient struggling with the condition, it is very difficult for their loved ones and problematic for the staff treating them. The person who has dementia is confronted with confusion, loss of communication skills, and the degradation of short-term and long-term memories. It can be challenging for them to understand what is going on, what they are doing, and the consequences of their actions. The nature of this disease has led to the use of “chemical restraints,” or anti-psychotic drugs to sedate the patient against their will.

The whole family has a hard time watching their loved one become dependent on others, incapable of holding conversations, and unable to perform simple tasks. Watching them be subdued by drugs is another aspect of a terrible situation. But more so than other members of the family, sons and daughters often feel helpless not knowing how to handle the situation. 

A medical negligence claims specialist that works with dementia mismanagement cases has been consulted on how to help create a restraint-free environment as children of patients as well as what to do when their efforts to avoid chemical restraints have been unsuccessful.

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The Struggle of Dementia

Not only is dementia in an inherently troublesome disease, hospitals can be frightening and disorienting for patients, exacerbating disruptive behaviors. This leads to difficulty treating the patient for hospital staff. In a recent report from Human Rights Watch, nurses and other staff who are supposed to be taking care of patients have used anti-psychotic drugs. Though treating a person with a condition like dementia can be frustrating, the use of chemical restraints is immoral and ineffective.

Chemical Restraints

Though the use of anti-psychotic drugs is against federal regulations, this hasn’t stopped medical staff from using them. Used as a short-term solution, the use of chemical restraints is very harmful for dementia patients. Research has shown that using drugs to calm them can speed up symptoms. These methods can slow cognitive functioning, making the patient confused and limiting their ability to respond to questions and perform tasks. By creating a quiet environment for themselves, staff are harming the patients they are supposed to be helping.

Creating a Restraint-Free Environment

First, the presence of family is key. The children of the patient can help a lot by providing insight into the person’s personality and state of mind. Staff working in emergency departments have said that medical personnel use chemical restraints because there are often no family members present.

It does a great service to the loved one when family is around to ensure that they are being treated properly when they are in an unfamiliar environment. Not only can it prevent the use of chemical restraints, the family’s presence is very beneficial for preventing the acceleration of the disease. Keeping the patient active by stoking memories is key to prolonging further degradation of the brain. Children of the patient can help by making sure someone is around to monitor the situation, providing tips to the staff on how to handle the patient’s inevitable disruptive behavior.

The sons and daughters of dementia patients should make sure the staff has been properly trained. According to the Irish National Audit of Dementia Care in Acute Hospitals from 2014, only 48% of doctors have had training on disruptive behaviors including aggression and agitation. Nurses, on the other hand, received this training 65% of the time, and assistants 55% of the time. Of staff who received proper training, over 20% of them were instructed outside the hospital. Communication training is essential for treating dementia. 6% of hospitals provided proper dementia training for doctors while 9% provided training for visual and hearing impairments.

As a family member of a dementia patient, you should know the facts when encountering chemical restraints. For example, it is a common misconception that the use of drugs prevents falls and accidents. On the contrary, injury or death by choking is a valid concern when the staff uses chemical restraints. Furthermore, immobilization can lead to bruises, sores, constipation, difficulty walking, and an overall dehumanizing effect that can create a greater dependence on the drugs and prevent much-needed individualized treatment. The children of dementia patients cannot act as the staff’s conscious, but they can work to prevent chemical restraints by being aware and speaking up.


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Restraint-Free Environment as a Child of a Dementia Patient