The Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes

The Use of Restraints in Nursing HomesWhen you make the decision to place your loved one in a nursing home, there is a certain level of trust you put in the hands of the nursing home staff. You expect them to do what is in the best interest for your loved one. However, how would you feel if you discovered that your loved one was being restrained by the nursing home staff? With good reason, you would be upset and want the nursing home center to pay for their negligence.

The use of restraints in nursing home centers is quite common. BMC Geriatrics, an academic journal that focuses on the health and healthcare of older people, released an article that explores why the use of physical restraints on older adults in long-term home care should be reduced. The study revealed that the prevalence of physical restraint use among older residents with cognitive impairment in long-term care was 38 percent. Physical restraints are not the only way that caregivers can intervene with an older resident in a nursing home.

Different types of restraints used in nursing homes

Nursing home staff members can use two types of restraints against nursing home residents: chemical restraints and physical restraints.

  • Chemical restraints are restraints that help subdue or control the behavior of a resident. One of the most common forms of a chemical restraint is medication. There are some occasions where a nursing home resident may rely on the use of psychoactive drugs to help with their condition, like a resident who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. However, if the nursing home staff member administers medication as a way to sedate or control the resident’s behavior, it may be considered abuse or even a crime.
  • Physical restraints are considered any physical methods that a staff member uses to restrain the resident. Staff members can use physical devices like hand mitts or leg restraints to keep residents from moving freely. In some circumstances, using objects to lock a resident inside of their room can be considered a physical restraint. How the object or device is used determines whether it can be classified as a physical restraint.

What kinds of injuries are caused by restraints?

When staff members improperly use restraints against nursing home residents, they place the health of the resident in serious jeopardy. Even though these restraints should be used to keep the residents from harming themselves, they can cause them more harm. Residents can feel trapped and powerless when restrained, leading to more serious injuries, including:

  • Bed sores
  • Restricted breathing
  • Reduced bone mass
  • Constipation
  • Loss of strength and mobility
  • Depression and withdrawal
  • Fear
  • Decreased circulation
  • Increased blood pressure

What are Pennsylvania’s physical restraint laws?

The use of physical restraints in nursing homes has become an ethical and legal issue. It is too easy for staff members to rely on the use of physical restraints to handle residents. However, the consistent use of physical restraints can cause residents to lose physical functions as time goes on. Because of this, many states have enforced requirements for staff members to follow when considering restraint use.

Federal law prohibits staff members from using physical restraint on residents except in emergency situations. Staff members can only use physical restraints to protect the resident, other residents, and other staff members from harm. They are not allowed to use physical restraints on residents as a form of punishment. They also cannot use physical restraints against the resident’s will.

Pennsylvania law also prohibits staff members from using physical restraints against residents as a form of convenience. The state’s laws require a physician to sign off on a written order specifying the type of restraint that is required for a nursing home to use on a resident. Staff members are also prohibited from using locked restraints against residents.

Legal consequences for using physical restraints

When your loved one has been injured from being physically restrained in a nursing home, you have the right to pursue legal action against the facility. The nursing home’s improper use of physical restraints is considered an act of neglect or abuse, and they can be held liable for your loved one’s injuries.

Nursing home neglect is actions, or inactions,  that occur when staff members fail to provide the appropriate care to their residents. Unlike abuse, which is a deliberate act of negligence, neglect can happen whether staff members intend to commit the act or not. This is true of physical restraints, because staff members who physically restrain residents can injure them without intending to do so.

When you decide to place your loved one in the care of a nursing home, you enter a legally binding contract. Through the contract, the nursing home promises to provide proper care to your loved one. Negligent acts like physically restraining your loved one is a breach of that contract. In addition to the criminal penalties, the nursing home can be held liable for any personal injuries that their staff causes your loved one.

At KBG Injury Law, our attorneys understand how traumatizing physical restraints can be for your loved one. When a nursing home has caused your loved one to suffer from serious injuries, you need a personal injury attorney who is not afraid to fight for your legal rights. Our law firm has nearly four decades of experience serving the people of York, Lancaster, Hanover, Harrisburg, Gettysburg and all of South Central Pennsylvania. Call us today at 717-848-3838, or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation.