November 19th 2018
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Nearly half of people with dementia who have been hospitalized in Japan were physically restrained at some point to prevent them from harming themselves, according to a study published Sunday.
The nationwide study, carried out early last year at 3,446 hospitals and receiving valid responses from 937, found that among 23,539 patients with or suspected of having dementia, 10,480 or 45 percent were physically restrained during their stay.
The joint study by the National Cancer Center and the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science said that the results show hospitals are going overboard in restraining dementia patients and that 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 whose population is rapidly graying.
“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 the 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.
Of the reported cases in the study with multiple answers possible, 69 percent involved enclosing a patient’s bed with a fence to prevent them from leaving their beds, while 28 percent entailed binding patients to a wheelchair using belts and 26 percent involved putting mittens on patients to prevent them from pulling out catheters such as those used for IV drips.
Asked for the reasons for taking such steps, 47 percent of cases were due to a risk of patients falling, 14 percent were due to the possibility of them pulling out catheters, and 10 percent were because they had pulled out catheters before.