Researchers call for more debate about use of restraints in aged care

If you’ve ever visited a nursing home or aged care facility, then chances are you’ve seen some of the physical
Aged Care

If you’ve ever visited a nursing home or aged care facility, then chances are you’ve seen some of the physical restraints used – particularly for residents with dementia.

But statistics have come to light that are raising serious questions about whether the restraints are being used too often.

It turns out five aged care residents died between 2000 and 2013 from the restraints, according to a study by the Monash University.

Those who died choked, because their necks were compressed by the restraints – and four of the five residents had dementia.

The findings have led researchers to question the use of the restraints in aged care facilities.

Professor Joseph Ibrahim, who heads up the Monash University’s ageing research unit, told the ABC there wasn’t debate about whether or not the restraints were an appropriate way to look after people with dementia.

“Do you want to be restrained when you’re 80 and have dementia, or would you rather be able to walk freely and if you fall you fall?,” he said.

“We’re not having those types of mature conversations and they’re the situations you’re more likely to end up in, rather than the conversation that we all get very caught up in around things like euthanasia, which affect very, very few people.”

And he’s highlighted the need for more information to be available about how aged care facilities use the restraints.

“We think it’s still a relatively uncommon practice, but I’m not aware of anywhere, that as a member of the public or as a researcher, we’re able to access that information,” he said.

So you might be thinking that five deaths over 13 years isn’t many?

Well, according to the head of Alzheimer’s Australia, Graeme Samuel,  that doesn’t many there isn’t a problem with the use of restraints.


“It’s of no comfort to know that as someone who is aged, who is living with dementia, has been subjected to physical restraint of any form whatsoever,” he told the ABC.

“Physical restraint is needed only in the rarest of circumstances.”

But what about the people who are actually being restrained?

How would you feel? What do you think about the use of restraints in nursing homes?


  1. marilyn flynn  

    this makes me shudder with horror. restraining old people with mental health problems. really? sounds to me like its just laziness on the part of the care home.

  2. cheryl brown  

    I worked many years in aged care and dementia in NSW – restraints are illegal and not used -they are in hospitals but not nursing homes -don’t know about other states

  3. Diana Ross  

    Restraints are illegal in Nursing Homes in Victoria. Once upon a time, many, many years ago (and I am old), I used pool noodles under edge of the mattress to help prevent frail elderly from falling out of bed. It worked, and saved a few broken bones, but even that is illegal and has been for a long time. No physical restraints or chemical restraints at all
    seen today in Nursing homes here

  4. Mary Miller  

    I worked for almost 20 years in aged care and restraining residents is illegal!

  5. I work in aged care in Western Australia and restraints have been illegal since the late nineties and a jailable offence if used. I don’t know where this article retrieved its information but it is wrong.

  6. Mary  

    It was 2008 u went to visit my father at Kingston hospital in Victoria to find several patients restrained in bed begging me to undo them. My father who was in for a broken hip and also had dementia included. He even kept a knife from dinner to cut them when he could. It was utter devastation. He had a stroke soon after no doubt because he was unable to do any exercise at all in that bed. I still shudder whenever I recall the utter horror of that ward

  7. Ross W  

    In the late 1970s my father in law was in a nursing home in Brisbane with dementia. We arrived one day to find him tied to a chair with cord and bombed out of his mind with drugs. We were told that it was the only way to stop him wandering. I thought that we had come out of the dark ages by now but it appears that nothing changes.

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