elderly man in nursing home bedUsing restraints on patients in Virginia nursing homes is a divisive topic. They can be used in some nursing homes when staff feel that they are necessary. While nobody wants to think of a loved one physically or chemically restrained, there are situations that justify the use of restraints. On the other hand, restraints can be misused and some consider their use inhumane.

Types of Restraints

There are two main types of restraints: chemical and physical. Chemical restraints are drugs given to residents to treat behavioral symptoms.  Physical restraints are any device used to restrict a resident’s movement. Physical restraints include vest restraints, waist belts, geri-chairs, hand mitts, and lap pillows.

When Should Restraints Be Used?

Restraints should never be used without good cause. Residents who have a history of falls, aggression, or wandering may need to be restrained for their own safety. Some residents may need to be restrained because they have a medical condition or injury that makes walking or standing unsafe. Using restraints as punishment or to make up for short staffing could be consdered nursing home abuse.

Dangers of Restraint Use

Restraints can cause problems if they are overused or not used properly. They can cause physical problems for residents and can also compromise a person’s quality of life.

Some physical side-effects of improper restraint use include the following:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Incontinence
  • Circulation problems
  • Weak muscles
  • Weakened bones
  • Pressure sores
  • Agitation
  • Increased chance of pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Death

Quality of life problems because of restraint use include inability to socialize, withdrawal, loss of autonomy, depression, sleep problems, and feelings of helplessness.

What Does the Law Say About Restraint Use?

According to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, residents have the right to be free from physical or chemical restraints imposed for discipline or convenience, or restraints not required to treat a medical problem. The American Medical Directors Association (AMDA) position is that restraints should only be used when needed to treat a resident’s medical condition and should be used only if ordered by a physician.

Questions to Ask Your Nursing Home Staff

If you are concerned about restraint use at your nursing home, here are some questions to consider:

  • How do you decide when restraints are needed?
  • How do you determine that less restrictive alternatives to restraints will not work?
  • How do you determine how long restraints are needed?
  • How do you monitor restraint use to ensure they are being used properly?
  • Do you have a written policy on restraints?  Can I see it?

Concerned about nursing home abuse or neglect in a Virginia?  Please don’t hesitate to ask for help.  You can contact the Warrenton or Culpeper attorneys at Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas  to discuss your case for no cost or obligation.

Richard A. Dulaney
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Richard has over 30 years of experience in personal injury law.

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