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Improper Use of Restraints

Description of Improper Use of Restraints

According to the Nursing Home Patients’ Bill of Rights (NHPBR) which establishes fundamental rights for all long-term care patients, a nursing home resident has the right to be free from any restraint – physical, mechanical, or chemical – which may restrict his or her movement or ability to control his or her own body functions.

In nursing homes, often the use of restraints is abused for staff convenience.  The abuse of both physical and chemical restraints can lead to serious physical and emotional injuries.

There are two basic types of restraints: chemical and physical.  Physical restraints restrict the patient’s movement, such as belts or straps to tie/restrain a patient in bed, Posey belts, and side rails.  The most common warning sign of physical restraint is bruises, especially around the wrists and the ankles.

Chemical restraints, on the other hand, are achieved through the use of drugs in order to control the patient’s behavior or restrict his or her freedom.  For example, a nursing home may use Haldol, Xanax, Risperdal, Benzodiazepine, Lorazepam, Mellaril or Navine in an effort to sedate a patient for staff convenience.  They should never be used unless the reasons and parameters are detailed in the patient’s care plan.

What to do if Your Loved One is Physically or Chemically Restrained

Physical and chemical restraints are a form of medical treatment, and they frequently cause more risks than benefits.  Nursing home patients often do not understand why they are restrained.  They become agitated and anxious, and will squirm and wiggle to attempt to get out of the physical restraint, sometimes causing them extreme physical injury.

Improper use of restraints is a form of abuse and is illegal, so you should contact Adult Protective Services.  A list of Adult Protective Services’ contact information organized by California counties is provided here.

Finally, contact your local ombudsman to report the use of improper restraint.  Their Crisis line phone number is 1-800-231-4024, or visit the California Department of Aging website for a list of county ombudsman phone numbers in California.

What causes Staff to Improperly Use Restraints?

Improper uses of restraints, both chemical and physical, are commonly the result of understaffing – it is more convenient for staff to drug or restrain a resident than it is to provide good care.

The use of chemical restraints (psychotropic drugs) is also illegal when used merely for staff convenience.  Nursing homes may attempt to use chemical restraints (drugs) to intentionally sedate a resident who is more active, as opposed to using safer alternatives.

Contact York Law Firm

If your elderly loved one has been improperly restrained either physically or chemically, speak with one of the talented attorneys at York Law Firm.  We have successfully tried and settled several cases regarding improper use of restraints. In one case in particular, we worked hard to get our client, a 90 year old woman who was killed due to the asphyxiation caused by a nursing home’s use of improper physical restraints, a confidential settlement for elder neglect against a nursing home.

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