Residents of nursing homes have the right to be respected, treated with dignity, and to be safe from any kind of mistreatment in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility. This may include the use of restraints. Restraints are occasionally used in aged care facilities to prevent residents from causing harm.
That said, the excessive use of confinement on facility residents without their agreement is considered abusive. Here’s what you should know about restraint abuse and how to get legal help if your loved one has become the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse.
Is It Legal to Use Restraints on Nursing Home Residents?
Any object used to restrict a person and prevent them from moving, becoming upset, or injuring themselves or another person is known as a restraint.
Although this practice is seen as barbaric in many instances, there are a few occasions where restricting a patient becomes necessary. However, nursing homes are well known to have abused their ability to restrain patients for a variety of reasons.
There are a few different types of restraints, many of which are used for nursing home patients. Prior to the 1990s, as many as 40% of patients in skilled nursing facilities were restrained according to a 1996 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. In 1991, this figure decreased to just over half that at 23.5%.
What Are the Different Ways Residents Are Restrained?
The two forms of restraints nursing homes generally use to limit the movement of a resident are physical or chemical restraints. Unfortunately, the majority of nursing home personnel that are overworked, understaffed, or reluctant to adopt more efficient safety practices to accomplish their tasks frequently abuse restraints.
Nursing home residents can be:
A physical restraint is any type of mechanical device or technique that is used to restrict the movement of an individual. These can include but aren’t limited to arm and leg restraints, jackets, hand gloves, and bed railing are common examples of physical restraints.
This also extends to elevating a patient’s bed high enough that they can’t safely get out, pushing a patient’s bed against walls, or locking a wheelchair so that it can’t be moved by the patient.
Other abusive physical restraints may include:
- Cords, ties, or ropes
- Sheets that are too tight to move
- Safety bars on the bed or bedrails
- Lap trays or belts on wheelchairs
- Clothing with hook and loop fastening
- DIY restraints
Medications and other substances that are used to calm or sedate a patient so they cannot move is considered a chemical restraint. This can include any medicine that relaxes the body; the most commonly used medications are CNS depressants, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, anti-anxiety meds, and powerful antipsychotic drugs.
Nursing Home Restraint Alternatives
There are several actions nursing homes may take to decrease the need for restraints without endangering its staff or residents. The bulk of these options revolve around providing people with individualized care and attention so they can safely become more independent. The use of restraining devices becomes less essential as patients get stronger and gain mobility.
Nursing facilities can help residents by offering rehabilitation programs, providing additional mobility devices, and potentially introducing Vitamin D supplementation. By removing existing hazards in nursing homes, many patients will be able to move about without assistance.
Wet flooring, inadequate visibility, objects in corridors, and mattresses at dangerous heights are all potential dangers. Nursing staff can also help to minimize the desire patients have to walk around without assistance by paying more attention to their needs for food, fluids, entertainment, socialization, toileting, bathing, and fresh air.
How Does Restraint Use Cause Injury?
Restraints should never be used to penalize, discipline, or punish a nursing home patient. They cannot be used in place of a necessary medical treatment, or to make it easier to care for a difficult patient. They may only be used explicitly in instances where the patient is considered a danger.
When restraints are used, particularly if they are used in an inappropriate manner, there is a risk of injury to the patient. Elderly individuals can be seriously harmed or even killed when restraints are abused.
Types of Injuries from Restraints
Many different kinds of injuries can arise from the use of restraints on a nursing home patient, such as rope burns, blisters, bruises on the wrists or ankles, and infections. Because being confined to a chair or bed limits a patient’s mobility, residents may develop bed sores, muscular atrophy, loss of bone density, stiffness, incontinence, and constipation.
Individuals who are restrained for an extended length of time are also more likely to experience psychological distress, including depression and anxiety. Chemical restraints may be more difficult to detect after the fact and carry a greater risk of significant injury and even death via overdose.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Injuries Caused by Restraints?
A nursing home may be held legally liable for the injury or death of a resident if it can be clearly shown that the nursing home was at fault for the injury. This is often the case with injuries caused by restraint, simply because the resulting harm are things most patients cannot cause themselves.
How to Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in MA or NH
If you suspect your loved one was abused or neglected in a nursing home, you should reach out to a seasoned nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Your loved one has rights and an experienced personal injury attorney can help protect them. Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today for a consultation by calling (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.