Hospital staff are sometimes confining patients with dementia to bed through controversial “containment and restraint” techniques, new government-funded research reveals.

The findings, paid for by the National Institute for Health Research, reveal that nurses and healthcare assistants are raising the siderails of beds and tucking bedsheets tightly around patients with dementia, reducing their mobility. Others are prevented from getting up by their walking frames being put out of reach or by being sedated with drugs. The techniques are used, say the researchers, because of an exaggerated fear that patients will fall if left to move around wards freely. The study says the tactics lead to the “dehumanisation” of patients, leaving them angry and highly stressed and worsening their already poor health.

Dr Eileen Burns, president of the British Geriatrics Society, which represents doctors, nurses and therapists who work with older people, said: “These findings are a huge concern. …” and added too many ward staff perform “a custodial role” towards inpatients with dementia, though she said containment was sometimes needed to benefit the patient’s own health, as when bandages were placed over drips so they cannot be removed.

The researchers found that many dementia patients resist and reject the care provided to them in hospital because they are unhappy about their treatment. They concluded that the way staff deal with dementia patients, and the use of containment techniques, is “frequently the trigger of resistance or cause of patient anxiety”, though staff sometimes wrongly blame that on the dementia itself.

Joanne Purvis from SecuriCare says, “Dignity in care is paramount. This is something that must be achieved despite the complexities of any condition. The problem here seems to be that ‘Challenging behaviour’ can be mismanaged.  Labels like ‘aggressive’ and ‘violent’ are used to describe behaviour that is actually born of fear and confusion. What’s required is for staff to be provided with a framework that enables them to better understand and manage such episodes of behaviour. A measured, empathetic and supportive response that works would be the aim of a comprehensive training programme, such as the ones we offer..”

SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to provide support workers with the knowledge and skills required to provide sensitive support to individuals with a diagnosis of Dementia. These include An Introduction to Ageing (Online), Working with Dementia (Classroom) and Working Positively with Dementia and Challenging Behaviour.

Our courses are developed by a team comprising PhD and Masters’ Graduate Nurses with a combined 50 years of practice in Health and Social Care.

Contact us for more information and to discuss your needs: E: or T: 01904 492442

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