Informed consent: What families need to know about dementia, drug and residential aged care

People with dementia often have changes in their behaviour. They can be aggressive, shout, wander, change their sleep pattern or seem anxious. These changed behaviours can come and go. This is common, but it can be upsetting for you and your loved one.

This is the start of a new, informative and simple to read fact sheet issued by the Federal Health Department for families of people with dementia in residential aged care. It explains what they can do to help, including providing consent for medicines like benzodiazepines and antipsychotics, plus information on:

  • behavioural strategies
  • informed consent for prescribers
  • where to get more information

Medication options

In the fact sheet, the health department says it’s important to respond to your loved one’s behaviours in the way that works best for them including prescribed medication, which are medicines such as antipsychotics or benzodiazepines authorised by a doctor, specialist or nurse practitioner.

Before they can do this, the residential care service must have tried person-centred behavioural strategies.

Consent needed

They also need to keep using these strategies even if your loved one is taking medication. The prescriber also needs informed consent from the patient, or from you if you are their decision maker. Informed consent means being given clear information about the available choices, in a way that you can understand, so you can make the right decisions about the required care.

Questions you can ask

You can ask these questions to make sure you have all the information you need:

  • What is the medicine?
  • Why are you suggesting this? What happened?
  • What person-centred behavioural strategies have been tried?
  • How effective is the medicine? What are the risks and side effects?
  • What are the other options? What are the benefits, risks and side effects of these options?
  • What would happen if they don’t take it?
  • How long will the medicine be needed for? When will it be reviewed? Who will review it?
  • What happens if they have a reaction to the medicine?
  • What are the options if I don’t consent?
  • Can I have some time to discuss this with the family before I decide?
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