By Paul Routledge
Our national obsession with house prices is undermining decent human values.
A hiccup in the mortgage market creates a hullabaloo but silent suffering in old folks’ homes goes virtually unnoticed.
A quarter of a million people in care homes suffer from dementia and 100,000 are kept quiet with a “chemical cosh” of anti-psychotic drugs.
The drugs often have no benefits and can worsen patients’ conditions – even leading to early death. Seventy per cent of these prescriptions are inappropriate but this medical scandal goes on day after day, year after year.
And it gets worse, as more and more people live longer and care homes keep old folk – I nearly said “inmates” – sedated so they don’t interfere with smooth running and the making of profits. Medication goes on far longer than necessary.
MPs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia this week demanded government action to end widespread abuse of anti-psychotic drugs, which should only be used as a last resort.
Their report got little publicity and Care Minister Ivan Lewis blamed an ageing population, rising care expectations and the fact that the current system was created with the NHS in 1948.
A flabby answer from a flabby politician. He promised “an entirely new approach” in a Green Paper later this year.
This is only a discussion document. In 2001, action was promised after the government failed to heed similar warnings from the Royal College of Physicians in 1997. The scandal got worse.
The government has had 11 years to sort out the scandal of over-prescription of these dangerous drugs and all it has come up with is words.
Meanwhile, the abuse causes excessive sedation, dizziness, social withdrawal, accelerated cognitive decline and severe sensitivity reactions.
How many folk in care homes showing these symptoms do you know? It is very possible they are under the “chemical cosh” to keep them quiet.
The drugs concerned are haloperidol, chlorpromazine, quetiapine, amisulpiride, risperidone and olanazapine. The last two can increase the risk of stroke.
The situation demands more than a Green Paper, which Ivan The-Not-Very-Terrible will probably not be around to implement. It requires a plan of action curbing over-prescription, involving families in decisions about drugs, compulsory patient reviews and better control of care home staff.
An overhaul of the medical regime in these places is needed to give old folk dignity, not profit-driven sedation through a syringe.