Learning More About Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse

DSC05005Do you know enough about restraints in nursing homes and the importance of restraint-free care? According to a fact sheet from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), we as a society used to believe that the use of restraints was acceptable in nursing homes for elderly adults and those with disabilities. Yet the use of restraints in nursing homes is very dangerous, and it may rise to the level of nursing home abuse. As the fact sheet highlights, restraints “often entail more risks than benefits,” and recent studies “recommend more dignified methods to improve residents’ safety.”

Yet, as the CANHR fact sheet illumines, many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities continue to use unnecessary restraints, putting patients at risk of physical harm. And on the whole, California nursing homes, in particular, may be particularly heavy-handed in their use of unnecessary restraints. The fact sheet notes that “California nursing homes use physical restraints at a rate about fifty percent higher than the rest of the nation.” What else do you need to know about restraints and helping your loved one to obtain restraint-free care in a skilled nursing facility in San Diego?

California and Federal Law Prohibits Unnecessary Restraints

In theory, we should not have to discuss the use of unnecessary restraints given that restraint-free care should be the norm under the law, unless there are extenuating circumstances. However, not all facilities abide by the law when it comes to the use of physical restraints.

Under California law, unnecessary restraints are prohibited, and the CANHR underscores that a facility is not supposed to make use of restraints unless there is an emergency. In other words, if a facility uses restraints simply because it is more convenient for the staff members or in order to discipline a resident, the resident may be able to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. “A restraint may only be used if the resident’s doctor has ordered it to treat medical symptoms, no other alternatives are available, and only if the restraint will help you function at your highest level.”

We have made clear that nursing home residents should be able to have restraint-free care unless it is a medical necessity. But we have not yet addressed what it is we mean when we talk about restraints. What are restraints in nursing homes?

Learning More About Nursing Home Restraints

When elder safety advocates talk about restraints, they are typically referring to one of two forms:

  • Physical restraints; and
  • Chemical restraints.

As you might imagine, physical restraints are devices that physically restrict a patient. They can limit a person’s arm or leg movements, and they can also include “hand mitts, vests, soft ties, or anything else that prevents you from moving around.” Differently, chemical restraints are used to “control a person’s behaviors or to sedate or subdue a person.” In most cases, chemical restraints in nursing homes are psychoactive drugs.

Restraints can cause serious injuries, according to the CANHR fact sheet, including but not limited to:

  • Risk of strangulation;
  • Other injuries from being caught in bed rails;
  • Physical weakness;
  • Poor circulation;
  • Agitation;
  • Pressure sores;
  • Increased illness;
  • Depression and anxiety;
  • Decreased appetite; and
  • Muscle disorders.

If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s restraint-free care, you should speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today for more information.

See Related Blog Posts:

Federal Investigation into Social Media and Nursing Home Abuse in San Diego

Elder Abuse Risks for Dementia Patients


(image courtesy of Laura Musikanski)

Contact Information