Nursing Home Restraints: Can I File an Abuse Claim?

Nursing home restraints in Los Angeles County and throughout the state of California can only be used in certain circumstances, and they are generally not appropriate in cases where a lack of restraints would be sufficient to provide a nursing home resident with the care they need. If you have an elderly loved one who was physically or chemically restrained in their nursing home, it may be possible to file a nursing home abuse claim. Our Los Angeles County nursing home neglect lawyers want to provide you with more information about restraints and when they cannot be used for residents of skilled nursing facilities.

Understanding Physical and Chemical Restraints

Generally speaking, there are two types of restraints that can be employed in a nursing home setting — physical restraints and chemical restraints.

Physical restraints are any tools or devices that are designed to restrict a nursing home resident’s movement. Some types of physical restraints might only limit certain movements, while other restraints might be used to confine a resident to a bed, for example. Physical restraints can be used to restrain a resident’s arms or legs, and they can vary in material and type. Some kinds of physical restraints are made of fabrics or other soft materials, and sometimes belts or even furniture can be used to physically restrain a nursing home resident. 

It is important to be clear that postural supports are not restraints. A postural support is defined by California law as a “method other than orthopedic braces used to assist patients to achieve proper body position and balance,” and these “may only include soft ties, seat belts, spring release trays or cloth vests.”

Chemical restraints are medications, including psychoactive drugs, that are used—typically off-label—to restrain a person’s behavior. Chemical restraints are often used in inappropriate ways in nursing homes to control the behavior of residents with dementia.

When Restraints Can be Used in Nursing Homes

Under California law, physical restraints can only be applied in limited circumstances. They can be “used for the protection of the patient during treatment and diagnostic procedures,” but these treatment restraints must be removed as soon as the treatment is completed. In cases where physical restraints are used to control a resident’s behavior, they “shall only be used on the signed order of a physician . . . except in an emergency which threatens to bring immediate injury to the patient or others.” There are additional limitations that specify time limit and supervision requirements for physical restraints in these circumstances. 

When chemical restraints are used, California law requires that the specific drug and reason for its use be recorded in the patient’s medical record, that the effectiveness of the specific drug be evaluated (including any adverse reactions), and that any data collected be available to the resident’s health care provider who prescribed the drug. When drugs are used solely to manage or subdue a dementia patient, it may be possible to file a claim.

Contact a Los Angeles County Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If you have concerns about restraints being used on an elderly loved one in a skilled nursing facility, you should talk with a Los Angeles nursing home neglect lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm to speak with an advocate today.


See Related Blog Posts:

California Lawmakers Consider Legislation to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

Dehydration and San Diego County Nursing Home Negligence

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