Older people wrongly given sedative drugs - doctor
Older people in hospitals and nursing homes continue to be given inappropriately powerful sedative drugs in order to control their behaviour.
Dr Shaun O'Keefe, a geriatrician in University Hospital Galway, said this medication should not be used simply to sedate people or to manage behaviour, such as wandering or unco-operativeness.
He was speaking at the summer team meeting in Athlone of SAGE, the support and advocacy service for older people.
Treatment for three months with these drugs can result in the death of one in 100 and a stroke in one in 60.
He said: "Unfortunately, we continue to see inappropriate use of medications for just these reasons."
The distinction between medication for therapeutic reasons and drugs that were used simply to control behaviour was not understood among the general public and even by many practitioners in care facilities, including acute hospitals, said Dr O'Keefe.
Mervyn Taylor, manager of SAGE, told the gathering that in one recent case "a resident in a nursing home was given medication when he became upset on hearing of the death of his wife".
He added: "In another case, an older patient in a hospital was medicated to encourage her to adapt to continence pads - when she was still continent but needing the assistance of two staff to go to the toilet. We have identified many cases of sedatives being given to prevent wandering during the day or night - primarily for the convenience of staff."
Chemical restraint and misuse of psychoactive drugs is a violation of personal and bodily integrity and a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It is, unfortunately, being used as a first rather than a last resort in too many cases, the conference was told.