Scores of elderly people tied to beds, locked in rooms by care providers in Japan

Elderly people at a day care facility on Gogo Island in Matsuyama, Japan, on March 22, 2013. Scores of elderly people living in sheltered accommodation in Tokyo have been routinely tied to their beds or locked in their rooms, officials say, highlight
Elderly people at a day care facility on Gogo Island in Matsuyama, Japan, on March 22, 2013. Scores of elderly people living in sheltered accommodation in Tokyo have been routinely tied to their beds or locked in their rooms, officials say, highlighting the plight of pensioners in the rapidly ageing country. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG 

TOKYO (AFP) - Scores of elderly people living in sheltered accommodation in Tokyo have been routinely tied to their beds or locked in their rooms, officials said on Wednesday, highlighting the plight of pensioners in rapidly ageing Japan.

A Tokyo authority has ordered a care provider to stop the abuse of elderly people in three separate buildings, after inspectors found around 130 people being routinely restrained against their will.

"After a media report in November we investigated the service operator, and spotted some 130 elderly people out of 150 residents in condominiums were bound to their beds or locked in their rooms by care workers," an official told AFP. "Carers used the body restraints on the instruction of doctors, but without considering whether such measures were necessary."

Japan's Health Ministry said in 2001 that bodily restraints should only be used when there is no alternative means of protecting the patient and the caregiver. It also said such restraints should only be temporary. "It was difficult for us to see the wrongdoing because these condominiums were not formally registered as residences for the elderly, rather the landlords had insisted that they were being rented out as regular homes," the Tokyo official said.

Another official said there are at least 25 such facilities in Tokyo, where the property owner says they are normal houses that simply have care services located nearby.

The incident caused a media stir in Japan, where the issue of caring for the elderly is growing in importance as society ages and traditional models of family care break down.

Officials at the facilities could not be immediately reached for a comment.