With short staffing in many aged care facilities, many carers and nurses find themselves thinly spread across a high number of residents.

And to cope with the workload, many residents get overloaded with medication to make them more manageable.

Today, doctors from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have spoken out against the practice.

They say that by sedating the residents, what is really happening is that painful health issues are being masked – which prevents them from seeking proper medical treatment.

“Doctors are asked to prescribe hypnotics for no other reason but to ease the workload and that’s just not appropriate,” AMA President Mic­hael Gannon told The Daily Telegraph.

“Giving some sleeping tablets is not a surrogate for appropriate care.”

The mentality of giving aged care residents sedative and antipsychotics, is based on this idea that they become “easier to handle”. But in doing so, they are really doing more harm than good.

Dr Richard Kidd, Chair of the AMA council of general practice, appeared on Channel 9’s Today morning show to talk about the common, but questionable, aged care practice.

“This isn’t new news really. In 2014 Alzheimers Australia did a study and found that 80 per cent of patients with dementia, that’s 4 out of 5, were on psychotropic or sedative medications,” he said.

Dr Kidd explained that in some situations strong medications were helpful and necessary, for example in people with dementia who were experiencing episodes that caused them to be fearful or act erratically.

Dr Kidd claims that only one in five patients with dementia should be on heavy psychotropic medications, which is considerably lower than the current number of residents that are on such treatments.

However, he made clear that it was completely inappropriate to use medication in such a way to may their job easier at the detriment of the resident’s wellbeing.

“Those are the sorts of times medication can be really almost life-saving for some of them and a great comfort, but, to just use it to make someone easier to manage and stop them walking around in the middle of the night, that’s not appropriate,” he said.

Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow explained to HelloCare that “medication in an aged care facility is prescribed by a doctor in response to a patient’s specific symptoms and administered by staff with appropriate training.”

The federal government have launched an independent inquiry as a result of the numerous claims of elder abuse in aged care facilities.

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