Misuse of Restraints in Nursing Homes

Georgia nursing home residents have a right to be free of unnecessary restraints. Using a physical restraint on a resident for purposes other than necessity is a violation of law. Unfortunately, many staff members use physical restraints because of convenience or as punishment. This is degrading to patients and can cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm. Your loved ones deserve better treatment than this. Our nursing home injury attorneys work to hold facilities responsible when they violate the rights of their patients.

What Are Common Restraint Methods Nursing Homes Use?

Nursing home restraints include any apparatus, device, or equipment attached to, or in proximity of, a resident’s body. It not only restricts the individual’s movement, it often prevents the person from accessing or contacting their own body. These are some common examples of restraints used by nursing homes:

  • Straps
  • Belts
  • Bedrails
  • Vests
  • Ties
  • Hand mitts
  • Lap trays
  • Specialized chairs
  • Wheelchair safety bars

Not all restraints, such as leg or arm belts, are obvious. For example, tightly tucked sheets can prevent movement as well. Not all restraints are physical, either. Medications can be used to chemically sedate an individual.

Why Do Nursing Homes Use Restraints?

Restraints can and often do serve legitimate purposes. A bed rail might keep a resident from turning and falling onto the ground, for instance. It is important to determine why a restraint is being used in the first place. If it is to protect the resident, staff, or other patients in the nursing facility, its use is probably justified. But this determination should only be made by a physician, and it’s a decision that requires periodic review. Restraints should only be used sparingly, carefully, and when necessary. And they must be used in a way that promotes the health, safety, and happiness of the resident.

But when staff are using restraints for their own convenience, or to keep bothersome patients at bay, they aren’t justified. Negligent staff who don’t want to be troubled to attend to a patient’s needs are prone to use restraints. They are likely to neglect residents in other ways, too. It is particularly troublesome when medical sedation is used to keep patients in a near-comatose state.

What Issues Can Improper Restraint Use Cause?

Staff should not be using restraints as substitutes for being attentive to their patients. They also should not be used to avoid the responsibility of assisting them with the bathroom. Alternatives to restraints include well-staffed and trained nursing stations, daily activities, and body alarms.

Not being able to move and change positions frequently can have devastating physical consequences on a nursing home resident, including:

  • Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Bedsores
  • Loss of muscle mass and muscle weakness
  • Stiff joints
  • Poor circulation
  • More frequent illnesses

Emotional and psychological problems abound as well. More frequently restrained residents have a higher likelihood of developing depression and anxiety. Agitation, social withdrawal, and loss of self dignity are also the consequences of constantly being restrained.

Families of the elderly should do their homework before committing a loved one to a nursing home facility. Once there, they should also visit the patient regularly and keep an eye out for physical, behavioral, and emotional changes. Of course, vigilance alone doesn’t always prevent this sort of abuse. If you are concerned that a loved one is undergoing this treatment, elevate the issue to the facility’s management. And consider contacting Georgia’s Healthcare Facility Regulation, which is responsible for overseeing nursing homes.

Take Action to Protect Your Loved Ones

At Hammers Law Firm, we have experience handling nursing home abuse. Regardless of whether you choose to escalate your concerns to the nursing home or regulators, you need legal action. Our team of Atlanta personal injury lawyers will investigate the abuse and take steps to hold the responsible parties liable. Give us a call today to discuss your case.