Restraints used on nearly half of dementia patients admitted to hospitals in Japan, study finds

  • Study concludes Japanese hospitals are going overboard in restraining dementia patients and the practice ‘may be becoming habitual’
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2018, 8:25pm

Nearly half of people with dementia who have been admitted to hospital in Japan were physically restrained at some point to prevent them from harming themselves, according to a report published on Sunday.

The nationwide study, which was carried out last year at 3,446 hospitals and received valid responses from 937 of them, found that among 23,539 patients with or suspected of having dementia, 10,480 – 45 per cent – were physically restrained during their stay.

The joint study by the National Cancer Centre and the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science said the results show hospitals are going overboard in restraining dementia patients and the practice “may be becoming habitual”.

The findings highlight practices such as binding patients to wheelchairs and indicate more studies are necessary about the appropriate way to care for the elderly in a country where the population is rapidly greying.

“We should examine the demerits of restraints including a decline in bodily functioning and the progression of dementia, and take measures to reduce unnecessary cases,” the joint study team said.

The poll focused on regular hospitals, where physical restraints are allowed under Japanese law and used at the discretion of medical staff. This is in contrast to psychiatric hospitals, where they are only allowed in certain situations, and nursing facilities, where they are in principle banned.

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Of the reported cases in the study with multiple answers possible, 69 per cent involved enclosing a patient’s bed with a fence to prevent them from leaving it, while 28 per cent entailed binding patients to a wheelchair using belts and 26 per cent involved putting mittens on patients to stop them pulling out catheters such as those used for IV drips.

Asked for the reasons for taking such steps, 47 per cent of cases were due to a risk of patients falling, 14 per cent were due to the possibility of them pulling out catheters, and 10 per cent were because they had pulled out catheters before.