Restraint Abuse and Injury
Did a nursing home staff member use restraints on you or someone you love? Do you feel that the restraints were used simply to "control," and not for the right reasons?
If so, you may have nursing home abuse case. Our experienced attorneys at the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Restraints & Resident Rights
Nursing home residents have the right to be free from physical and chemical restraints used to discipline them or to make it convenient for nursing home staff. Restraints may be used only to ensure the physical safety of the resident or other residents and staff, when a doctor writes an order that describes when and for how long to use restraints, and in an emergency.
Although the use of restraints in nursing homes has decreased, it's still a common type of nursing home abuse. Residents who are commonly restrained include those who:
- Have limited ability to carry out many activities of daily living
- Have low cognitive performance
- Take antipsychotic medications
- Have a history of falls
Many nursing homes that are understaffed use restraints simply to "control" the residents.
Effects of Restraints & Injuries
Using restraints can cause emotional, mental, and physical problems, including:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Decreased cognitive function (ability to think and process)
- Decreased activities of daily living
- Increased agitation
- Loss of dignity and self-sufficiency
- Urinary incontinence or retention
- Chronic constipation
- Loss of muscle function
- Increased bone fragility
- Cardiopulmonary de-conditioning
- Contractures (muscles shorten and make it harder to stretch and move)
- Lower extremity edema (condition where there is insufficient flow through the veins and can cause swelling, extra pressure in the veins, fluid retention, etc.)
- Fractures that result from a slip and fall accident caused by the use of a restraint
- Unexpected death
Nursing home staff members use restraints to help residents avoid falls and injuries, but unfortunately, they don't always prevent them. Restraints may prevent nursing home residents from wandering around on their own, but at the same time, residents don't get enough exercise. Their muscles become weaker, and it may become harder for them to walk or keep their balance. Many nursing home residents become disoriented and confused as well, which can contribute to more falls and injuries.
Types of Restraints
Nursing homes use several different types of restraints in an attempt to protect their residents or ease the burden of understaffing.
- Physical restraints – hand mitts, restrictive chairs such as Gerichairs, vests that tie nursing home residents to their chairs or beds, wrist and ankle restraints, etc.)
- Chemical restraints – medications given to residents to lessen pacing, restlessness, and uncooperative behavior
Doctors are required by law to write an order for bedrails to restrain a nursing home resident, but many nursing homes don't get them. Most people believe that bedrails are either an effective safety device, or that they pose no harm.
The most common bedrail injuries occur when a nursing home resident climbs over the rails and falls to the floor. Also, the use of bedrails increases the likelihood that a resident will spend more time in bed and lose muscle strength – putting them at greater risk for injury when out of bed.
The combination of bedrail restraints and any other physical restraint attached to the body (like a vest or wrist restraint) can cause serious injuries, including:
- Chest compression
- Wrongful death
Tips to Prevent Restraint Injuries
- Review the resident's care plan to determine the risk for using restraints. Risks factors include problems with falling, positioning, and elopement or wandering.
- Learn about the drugs you or your loved one is taking. Many books are available that contain easy-to-understand descriptions, side effects, and what medical conditions drugs treat.
- Remember that the law requires the doctor to write an order for restraints that details the duration and circumstances under which they can be used. Ask to see the order.
- After reading the order, discuss the restraint use with the physician and ask how the restraint will help the resident's function. If you are dissatisfied with the explanation and believe restraints are unnecessary, contact authorities.