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Are restraints a type of nursing home abuse?

On Behalf of | Feb 10, 2023 | Nursing Home Abuse

It’s terrifying to watch your parents or other elderly loved ones decline both physically and mentally right before your eyes. It’s not at all uncommon for a loved one’s needs to exceed your abilities, which is why you turned to professionals for nursing care.

It can be quite a shock, though, to find your loved one confined to their bed or a chair through the use of physical or chemical restraints. Is this legal, or is it actually a type of abuse?

What are physical and chemical restraints, and why are they used?

Physical restraints are anything that limits your loved one’s mobility. It can include something as simple as a secured bed rail and alarms so that they don’t get out of bed on their own, but it can also include straps, belts and ties that secure them into a chair or keep them otherwise controlled.

Chemical restaurants are drugs that are administered to sedate the patient or make them otherwise compliant. Chemical restraints have to be prescribed by a physician, but family members may or may not be fully informed about their use in advance.

Both physical and chemical restraints do have their place in nursing care. If a patient is confused and unable to ambulate safely without assistance, it may be only prudent to attach an alarm to their bed or make sure they are strapped into their chair at dinner. If a patient is combative and likely to injure themselves or somebody else, a chemical restraint may be warranted.

When are physical and chemical restraints abusive?

Unfortunately, some nursing homes (and nursing home physicians) are far too willing to use physical or chemical restraints merely because it’s convenient.

For example, a dementia patient who is prone to vocal outbursts or screaming may simply require more attention than the staff wants to give, so the nursing home doctor may order a steady supply of sedatives to keep them quiet.

In other situations, nursing home staff members may actually use restraints as a way to punish a patient. For example, if a patient is seen as difficult and demanding, the staff may use physical restraints to “discipline” them. The use of physical and chemical restraints for either punishment or convenience is illegal under state law.

If you believe your loved one was subjected to abuse in a nursing home, find out how you can assert your rights and stop it from happening again.