Britain Points Way to Fighting Chemical Restraint

By Michael Connors, CANHR Advocate

It is instructive to look at what other nations are doing to protect people who have dementia from chemical restraint. This is a hot issue in Britain, where advocacy efforts to stop the drugging of elders have reached a new level.

On June 9, the British Dementia Action Alliance issued a strong call to action on the use of antipsychotic drugs for people with dementia. It aims to ensure that every person with dementia who is receiving antipsychotic drugs receives a clinical review by their doctor to determine if the drugs are really needed and to ensure that alternatives to drugs have been considered. The Dementia Action Alliance is a coalition of government, advocacy, human service, academic and provider organizations that are seeking to transform the quality of life of people living with dementia in the UK.

The call to action includes the following statements:

  • Antipsychotics are drugs designed to treat conditions like schizophrenia, however they are often inappropriately prescribed to people with dementia as a first response to behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia like distress or agitation.
  • In some cases the use of antipsychotic drugs is the right treatment option, but it is estimated that around two thirds of the use of antipsychotics in people with dementia is inappropriate. The use of antipsychotic drugs is linked to serious side effects for people with dementia, creating mobility problems, sedation and sometimes death, particularly when used for longer than 12 weeks.

It is striking that this large, diverse coalition openly acknowledges that the vast majority of antipsychotic use for persons with dementia is inappropriate and dangerous.

In support of its call to action, the Dementia Action Alliance has produced a best practice guide on optimizing care for behavioral symptoms of dementia. Additionally, the British Alzheimer’s Society has dedicated a section of its website to misuse of antipsychotics.

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