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Nursing Home Abuse: The Use of Physical Restraints

bed_restraintsWhen you decide to place a loved one in a nursing home, you want the nursing home staff to provide her with safe and good care. In some situations, this could require restraints for her protection.

However, often the use of physical restraints isn't done for this purpose, resulting in nursing home abuse and neglect. When this occurs, your loved one could suffer serious injuries as a consequence of being restrained.

What Are Physical Restraints?

A physical restraint is material, a device, or a piece of equipment attached to or adjacent to a resident’s body to restrict her freedom of movement that she can't remove. Here are common types of physical restraints that may be used:

  • Wheelchair belts
  • Lap trays
  • Arm restraints
  • Vests
  • Soft ties
  • Hand mitts
  • Bedrails—when used as a restraining device
  • Specialized chairs

When Is Use of a Restraint Considered Abuse of an Elderly Resident?

If a patient is in danger of falling, or is prone to wandering away—especially outside where she can endanger herself—the use of some form of physical restraint may be appropriate and could even be ordered by his doctor. For example, a bedrail may be installed to help an elderly person turn in bed or not fall out of bed. However, in many cases, physical restraints are used for the nursing home staff’s convenience.

Federal law doesn't allow the use of unnecessary restraints and prohibits them from being used for these reasons:

  • Punishing or disciplining a patient
  • Making patient care more convenient and easy for the staff
  • Using restraints as a substitution for other activities or treatment
  • Controlling a resident through the use of permanent restraints

What Harm Is Caused by the Use of Restraints?

Even when used properly, physical restraints can cause a resident to suffer health problems. When utilized for other non-permissible reasons, restraints can cause a person to suffer even more serious medical and psychological problems or loss of abilities. Some of the ways the elderly are injured when physically restrained include:

  • Cardiovascular distress
  • Respiratory health problems
  • Decreased bone density, which can increase the risk of fracture
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Incontinence and constipation
  • Bedsores
  • More infections
  • Limitations in mobility
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Overall functional decline
  • Death


Are you concerned that a nursing home is improperly physically restraining your loved one? Alan Morton is here to help you stop the abuse of your family member and obtain the compensation she deserves. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation to learn more.