Australian nursing home residents "tuned into zombies" by prescription drugs: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-15 09:52:30|Editor: Li Xia
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CANBERRA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Australian nursing home residents are being administered psychotropic drugs for years at a time, an expert has warned.

In a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which will begin in Adelaide on Friday, University of Tasmania researcher Juanita Westbury said that more than 60 percent of nursing home residents were taking at least one psychotropic every day.

The most common drugs were antipsychotics developed to treat schizophrenia, anti-depressants and benzodiazepines licensed for short-term use only because of "side effects of drowsiness, language impairment, cognitive impairment (and) falls."

"Residents were often on doses of antipsychotics for years," Westbury told News Corp Australia on Tuesday.

"And frequently they were on multiple agents or not taken off doses before giving them another, different drug.

"When taken by people with dementia, antipsychotics increase the risk of stroke, death from any cause, heart arrhythmias and pneumonia and also cause metabolic and movement disorders."

Ian Yates, chief executive of the Council on Ageing, supported Westbury, saying the commission must address the issue "because it is systemic, unlike physical and sexual violence."

"We have seen a significant shift from physical restraints to chemical restraint in the past decade, or even longer, so now it is hidden.

"Residents in aged-care homes are being turned into zombies to manage their behavior. It is a lazy practice, it is ignorant and it masks real health issues a person might have."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the commission in September 2018, saying that evidence of systemic neglect and abuse in the sector could not be ignored.

The Royal Commissioners will deliver their final report by April 2020 with an interim report due in October 2019.