My 81 year old, moderately dementia-affected father was admitted as an in-patient in a private hospital in Queensland on 13 June 2018.
I am his Enduring Power of Attorney.
He does not have capacity having mixed dementia – vascular dementia and Alzheimers.
On his very first night in hospital, without my knowledge or consent, his treating physician authorised the administration of Haloperidol, a 50 year old antipsychotic sedative, for “agitation” as he was getting out of bed often to use the toilet, as he does at home.
My father suffers from urinary incontinence and even though he has had two surgical procedures to correct this medical condition, both failed.
He makes most urine at night, instead of during the day like most people, and needs to use the toilet often to empty his bladder.
That he was chemically restrained for this is a sorry indictment on the treatment and safety of aged patients at this supposedly modern, caring, private hospital.
The second night of his stay, the same treating physician authorised a further 2 doses of Haloperidol, 2 hours apart, because again, he was getting up from his bed to use the toilet.
Once again he was chemically restrained, against his will, without my knowledge or consent.
My father suffered Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, a rare, life threatening medical condition, directly as a result of this chemical restraint.
He was ignored and left untreated by both nursing staff and his physician for hours, until I observed his semi-comatose condition upon visiting him hours later.
But for my actions, he would not be alive today.
It was only at this point that I was told about the antipsychotic. The elderly patient in the bed beside my father shared the same treating physician.
That patient was also given Haloperidol without the knowledge of the patient’s daughter.
Consequently, my father suffered 3 falls whilst in hospital after this episode (a side effect of Haloperidol) and instead of a short stay in hospital, he languished in hospital for 5 weeks, very unwell and a completely different man to that at admission.
My father has still not recovered from the adverse effects of this drug. In fact, he has made very little improvement at all, months after the drug has left his system.
Despite official complaints being lodged with the hospital and a “review” of my father’s care undertaken in-house by hospital staff, the reasons for administration of this drug, the lack of monitoring and acknowledgement of substandard care have not been satisfactorily explained by management or the physician.
The drug itself is not recommended for use on dementia patients in America given the increased risk of death and falls, and there is clinical evidence to show it is not effective on dementia sufferers.
Risperidone is the only oral medication approved in Australia for use in behavioural disturbances associated with Alzheimer’s type dementia.
Why is Haloperidol still being used in Australia on the most fragile, vulnerable members of society without their consent, or the consent of their substitute decision-makers?
Why are the aged being abused in this way in a hospital that promotes itself as a caring, healing, advanced facility?
It is cheaper for hospitals to dose patients and have them compliant and quiet rather than paying for staff training and increasing staff numbers.
These are not bad decisions.
These are criminal acts.
On 27 September 2018, I received an email response from the CEO of the hospital notifying me that the staff identified in my complaint had been disciplined by way of “professional mentorship” and were encouraged to “self-reflect”.
He said that “This hospital takes the safety and well-being of our patients very seriously; it is of the highest priority… and our clinical teams are dedicated to providing the highest standards of health care”.
I can only wonder what condition my father would be in if this hospital did not give a damn!
Not once in his one and a half page PR exercise did he even mention the repeated acts of unlawful chemical restraint against my father – a recurring theme at this hospital.
I am yet to identify a single person involved, to date, who has any unbiased, accurate investigative or reporting ability.
With the help of an outside party, my complaint has been referred back to the Chair of the Hospital Board
What happened to my father is an abuse of his human rights.
He entered the hospital with bursitis in his left knee.
He required IV antibiotics – a very routine procedure.
His quality of life is now destroyed and our family is forever affected.
To be chemically restrained because you need to use the toilet would rightly cause outrage in any normal society. Imagine if a child was drugged in this scenario!
To be chemically restrained because you need to use the toilet BUT you are old and have dementia seems to be accepted practice at the hospital and no one bats an eyelid.
Words like “agitation” and “displacement confusion” are thrown about by medical “professionals” to justify their abuse of human rights and criminal assault.
My father was simply doing what he does every single night at home – using the toilet, but in doing so, he upset the hospital’s night time routine.
My request to stay with my father overnight was firmly rejected.
The Terms of Reference of any Royal Commission into the Aged Care Sector in Australia must be extended to include the treatment of dementia-affected patients in hospitals – particularly private hospitals, as they are not subject to the same scrutiny as public hospitals.
Many residents in nursing homes may not be there but for the actions they are subjected to in hospital – which is the case for my father.
He walked into hospital a few short months ago with moderate dementia – he was a carer for my mother, a friendly, happy, positive but often forgetful gentlemen, who could attend to the daily activities of life (MMSE 24/30).
Today, he has severe dementia, little cognitive function, he cannot start and finish the same sentence, he is a resident in a nursing home, he is depressed, he cannot walk alone or toilet himself, he falls (MMSE 10/30).
Ironically, the care he is receiving in the nursing home is far superior to that he received in a private hospital. The food is even much better. I spend every day there.
This is a story that needs to be told.
We expect our elderly, much loved, family members to be safe and cared for in hospital – not subjected to repeated acts of criminal assault.
Everyone is so horrified when the shameful acts of abuse in residential aged care are brought to light by the media but they don’t want to know when the same acts occur in hospitals.
Yet, hospitals are a major pathway, and a very lucrative one, to residential aged care.
Giving antipsychotic sedatives to unsuspecting patients, places elderly patients and their families in the position where they believe their loved one can no longer cope at home due to the side effects of these drugs, so of course, discharge nursing staff at hospitals have easy prey to hone in on and referrals to nursing homes are easily won.
Are lucrative commissions given to hospitals by nursing homes?
It’s a very seedy business and instead of focusing my full attentions of my parents and my own family, I am forced to lobby in this space to get justice for my father and bring attention to this matter to protect other dementia suffers from abuse.