Physical or Chemical Restraints in Nursing Homes

The use of physical or chemical restrains to subdue nursing home residents as a means of punishment or convenience has been illegal since the implementation of the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. Nursing homes are permitted to use restraints when medically necessary for the safety of the patient and/or other residents. However, nursing home staff members often rely on this gray area of the law to overuse and abuse restraints – frequently with heartbreaking consequences for elderly people and their families. When improperly or unnecessarily utilized, chemical and physical restraints may demoralize, seriously injure and even contribute to the death of nursing home patients.

Physical restraints

Physical restraints refer to any physical device or manual method that restricts movement of nursing home residents, including specialized restrictive chairs, ankle or wrist restraints, hand mitts, pelvic ties, vests, bed rails, and bed sheets tucked so tightly that residents are unable to move. Many types of physical restraints, especially those used in combination with bed rails, have the potential to turn deadly by increasing the odds of suffocation or strangulation if a patient struggles to break free. Even when used safely, restraints can lead to diminished muscle function and balance, putting patients at increased risk of injury and failing health.

Chemical restraints

Chemical restraints refer to psychoactive drugs administered to reduce uncooperative behavior, restlessness and pacing, for example. It’s estimated that one in four nursing home patients is given anti-psychotic drugs at some point during their stay, according to the Center for Medicare Advocacy While these powerful drugs can be helpful for treating depression or dementia when used under a doctor’s orders, they can be hazardous when used unnecessarily as a form of restraint. In fact, FDA statistics suggest that psychoactive drugs are factors in the deaths of approximately 15,000 nursing home patients each year.

If you suspect physical or chemical restraints were used to needlessly restrain a loved one in a nursing home, it’s important that you know your legal options. When nursing home negligence or abuse results in the injury or death of residents, victims and their families may be entitled to compensation for harm suffered. At Phillips Law Offices, our Chicago personal injury lawyers have been assisting the victims of nursing home abuse for more than 65 years. Our experienced team is dedicated to protecting the safety and health of nursing home residents and aggressively pursuing justice when those rights are violated.

Nursing home residents unnecessarily restrained with physical or chemical restraints may suffer from a variety of related problems, including but not limited to:

  • Increased agitation and/or depression
  • Disorientation, confusion or other cognitive impairments
  • Incontinence, urinary retention or constipation
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Increase in bone fragility or fractures
  • Bedsores
  • Fractures resulting from restraint-related falls
  • Contractures
  • Edema
  • Death

The Nursing Home Reform Act prohibits nursing homes and other assisted living facilities from restraining patients unless they have obtained specific doctor’s orders to do so. Yet many nursing homes, such as those that are understaffed or staffed by incompetent or improperly trained caregivers, rely on inappropriate physical or chemical restraints to make their jobs easier. There is no excuse for endangering the livelihoods and lives of patients. Families of nursing home residents trust nursing homes and other assisted living facilities to treat their elderly loved ones with care, compassion and respect. When proper standards of care and common decency are violated, these facilities can be held liable for damages from medical expenses to pain and suffering.

If you believe someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse such as the unnecessary use of physical or chemical restraints, the Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys at Phillips Law Offices may be able to help. Contact the lawyers at Phillips Law Offices today to discuss your legal options with a free consultation.