New regulations for aged care providers are flawed and will do little to reduce the overuse of "chemical restraint" drugs for elderly residents with dementia, experts have told a royal commission.
Two experts have criticised the new standards and principles that come into effect on July 1 and are designed to better regulate and minimise the use of chemical and physical restraints in aged care facilities.
Associate Professor Stephen Macfarlane said aged care providers did not have a clear understanding of what constituted a chemical restraint.
"I think that the proposed new standards around both behaviour management and the principles that relate to chemical restraint are deeply flawed," he told the aged care royal commission.
Dr Macfarlane said under the new standards, any drug prescribed for any reason other than the treatment of a diagnosed disorder would be considered a chemical restraint.
"To me that's a nonsense because it demonises completely innocuous medications," the head of clinical services at HammondCare's The Dementia Centre said.
He said there was also "a lot of looseness" in the new principles around the use of antipsychotics because the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia are by definition symptoms of a diagnosed condition, meaning an antipsychotic can be prescribed.
Dr Juanita Westbury did not believe the new principles on the use of physical and chemical restraint in aged care facilities would make much difference in addressing the overuse of psychotropic medications.
"They say there is no informed consent required to use these medications, it just says that it is advisable to inform the resident or their legal proxy that they've been used, if possible."
Dr Westbury said the principles stipulated protections and safeguards for physical restraints, requiring informed consent, proper assessment, monitoring and a maximum period for their use.
The same requirements were not stipulated for the use of chemical restraint, the senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania's Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre said.
"It seems like in a way it endorses the use of chemical restraint as opposed to physical restraint and it's quite concerning," Dr Westbury said.
Representatives from the federal health department and the new national regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, will give evidence at the royal commission's Sydney hearing on Thursday.
Australian Associated Press