Restraints in nursing homes are more than just tying someone to a bed or fixed location; in addition, they include chemical, physical, and other forms of restraints. Any type of restraint is prohibited in a nursing home. The use of these restraints can not only result in the facility losing its license, but it also gives the patient and their loved ones the right to seek compensation.
Restraint-Free Care in Nursing Homes Is Critical
Decades ago, nursing homes could physically restrain a resident any time they wanted. There were no rights or regulations in place to protect patients, and it was a misconception that the use of these restraints was best for the patient’s “safety.” Today, physicians and lawmakers agree that restraints are dangerous and those risks outweigh the small list of benefits to them.
Nursing home laws now prohibit the use of restraints when it is unnecessary to use them. The only time restraint is allowed is when there is an emergency, but even so, a nursing home cannot restrain a patient against their will and without their consent. Nursing home residents today have rights, and one right is to be free from any unnecessary restraint. Instead, the nursing home staff must use other methods of restraint, and if they do use one, it cannot hinder a patient’s ability to function.
Strong federal and state laws now exist regarding the use of restraints. Despite this advancement, numerous Florida nursing homes illegally use restraints on their patients – and in some cases have caused serious injuries and deaths because of it.
What Is a Restraint in a Nursing Home?
Two primary types of restraints exist: physical and chemical.
A physical restraint restricts a victim’s movement. These can include arm or leg restraints, hand mitts, soft ties, a full body vest, or any device that forces the resident to remain in a fixed position and prevents them from moving freely.
How the restraint is used determines if it was a physical restraint. Sometimes objects in a room, depending on their placement, can be considered a restraint, too. For example, locking a patient in their wheelchair in a corner could be considered a restraint. Using objects from the room to block a patient’s way out of their room is a physical restraint as well. Another example would be tucking a bed sheet so tight the patient cannot get themselves out of bed.
Chemical restraints do not use a physical object but instead use medications that sedate, subdue, or control the behavior of a resident. While sometimes the use of chemical restraint is necessary to protect a resident during a medical procedure or other health crises, the use of these drugs just to control a patient without medical necessity makes it illegal.
Often psychoactive drugs are used to alter a patient’s behavior, but these are not considered chemical restraints when used for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or schizophrenia. If, however, these drugs are used incorrectly or used on a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as a way to control them, then it is illegal.
There Are Severe Risks to Using Chemical and Physical Restraints
Restraint use is not innocent. While it was once thought of as a way to protect a patient from harming themselves, the reality is that the patient suffers more serious injuries in restraints than without them.
Just some of the common risks to residents, when restrained against their, will include:
- Developing bedsores. When a patient is confined to their wheelchair, bed, or a chair in a fixed position, they have a higher risk of developing bedsores. Bedsores are a serious health risk, because, in older patients who already have a weakened immune system, these can become infected quickly and (in some instances) can become life-threatening.
- Injuries while trying to escape restraints. A patient who is struggling to escape a restraint could injure themselves further. This could include sprains, broken bones, a fractured hip, and more. Some patients have fallen from their beds, trying to escape restraints only to suffer serious traumatic brain injuries.
- Decreased circulation or blood clots. As circulation decreases because the patient is confined to his or her bed, the risk for health complications and blood clots increases.
- Malnutrition and dehydration. When restrained either physically or chemically, a patient may not eat or take in fluids as they should. And prolonged periods of restraint can lead to malnutrition or serious dehydration.
- Heart attack or increased blood pressure. The experience of being restrained can lead to stress, which also may raise a victim’s blood sugar. If that victim already has a pre-existing heart condition or is at risk for a heart attack, they could suffer a fatal heart attack while being restrained.
- Side effects of drugs. Drugs used to restrain chemically have risks. They may have a dangerous interaction with medications the patient already takes, or their side effects could cause adverse reactions (such as rapid heart rate, dizziness, heart complications, or even cause someone to stop breathing). The patient could also suffer from withdrawal complications, especially if the chemical restraint were administered daily and long enough for their body to develop a dependence on the medication.
Seeking Compensation for a Loved One’s Restraints – You Have Rights
If you feel that your loved one was unlawfully restrained (chemically or physically), you have the right to hold the nursing home accountable for their actions. To do so, speak with a nursing home abuse attorney in your area. An attorney will help investigate allegations of nursing home abuse, gather evidence, and present your claim against the nursing home.
You and your family should receive compensation for not only the medical costs, but for the pain, suffering, and trauma your family member suffered.