What are Physical Restraints in Riverside County Nursing Homes?

Seniors residing in Riverside County nursing homes can sustain injuries in a wide range of circumstances, and in many of those cases, the facility may be liable. In some situations, elder abuse or neglect may be the cause of a resident’s injury, while other instances of harm might result from the facility’s negligence in maintaining safety protocols. Abuse or neglect in a nursing home can take many different forms, from acts of intentional physical or psychological abuse to passive neglect that can result in injuries like bed sores. It is important to know that the use of physical restraints can constitute unlawful abuse, and it may be possible to hold the facility accountable. Our Riverside County nursing home abuse attorneys can tell you more about physical restraints, and we can discuss your case with you today.

Knowing the Law on Physical Restraints

The use of restraints among nursing home residents has been a concern for elder safety advocates for decades, and the federal Nursing Home Reform Act was intended in part to “crystallize a growing consensus against the use of restraints throughout all sectors of nursing home service delivery,” and it ultimately “led to a complete change in how restraint use is viewed,” according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). That law clarified “the right to be free from . . . any physical or chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.”

Indeed, as a CMS report from the mid-2000s pointed out, the percentage of nursing home residents “in daily physical restraints” went down from over 20 percent in 1991 to about 5 percent in 2007. In California, state law clarifies that a form of physical abuse in nursing homes includes the “prolonged, excessive, inappropriate, or unauthorized use of physical restraints or drugs” to control a resident’s behavior. It also makes clear that nursing home residents in California have the right to “be free from physical and chemical restraints, except for limited periods of time in an emergency situation when you or someone else would be in danger.”

Understanding Forms of Physical Restraints

What are physical restraints, and how do they differ from chemical restraints? According to a study in the Journal of Medical Ethics, physical restraint is:

“Any device, material, or equipment attached to or near a person’s body and which cannot be controlled or easily removed by the person and which deliberately prevents or is deliberately intended to prevent a person’s free body movement to a position of choice and/or a person’s normal access to their body.”

Examples of physical restraints, according to the study, often include:

  • Vests;
  • Straps;
  • Belts;
  • Limb ties;
  • Wheelchair bars;
  • Wheelchair brakes;
  • Sheets tucked in too tightly; and
  • Bedside rails.

Chemical restraints, as the study clarifies, typically include “sedatives, antipsychotics, and anxiolytics.”

Contact a Riverside County Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If you need assistance filing a claim for the unlawful or unauthorized use of physical restraints, a Riverside County nursing home abuse lawyer at our firm can help. Contact the Walton Law Firm for more information.


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