In 1987, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act that made it clear that the inappropriate use of physical restraints in nursing homes is a form of abuse. While we have witnessed a decrease in the use of restraints since the passage of these laws, there is still a long way to.
Doctors, nurses and other staff use belts, bed rails, leg restraints, hand mitts, arm restraints and vests to restrain nursing home patients who require that level of care. Unfortunately, we have seen innumerable cases where staff has used restraints on patients who did not require them. If you feel your loved one has suffered due to the unnecessary use of physical restraints while in a nursing home, discuss your concerns with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
The Reasoning Behind Physical Restraints
An acceptable, sometimes even necessary, use of physical restraints is when nursing home staff uses them to protect the resident from himself or herself, or to protect other residents. This is especially common with individuals who have cognitive impairments, a history of falls or other situations where the resident cannot make appropriate decisions for his or her own safety. In every instance, the Nursing Home Reform Act requires that a doctor must prescribe a specific restraint. That prescription must clearly state the duration and the circumstances under which staff can use the restraints.
Physical restraints should never be used because the nursing home is understaffed, because a nurse or other care provider just wants a break, or as a form of discipline. These are clear signs of nursing home abuse. If you see such things happening to your loved one or any other elderly individual in the home, take immediate steps to report the situation.
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Injuries Caused by Physical Restraints
Not only is the inappropriate use of physical restraints illegal; it also can lead to serious physical injuries:
- Bed sores (deubitus ulcers)
In addition to physical injuries, a victim of nursing home abuse such as this may also begin to show signs of agitation or depression. These emotions can lead to worsening health conditions and increased mortality.
How to Prevent Injuries When Restraints Are Necessary
It is true that some nursing home patients require restraints due to their mental or physical health conditions. This does not mean, however, that providers can use these restraints without great care. To ensure that the nursing home is doing everything possible to protect your loved one from injury or wrongful death, take the following steps:
- Request that your loved one’s care plan include clear details about the type of restraint that the nursing home staff will use and for how long.
- Discuss the usage of these restraints with your loved one’s doctor before the restraints are used.
- Review the use of these restraints whenever you visit your loved one.
If at any time you feel the nursing home staff is using the restraints outside of the prescribed order, contact the authorities immediately.
Contact us at (847) 869-9100 to make arrangements to discuss your case with our attorney today.