Cruelty or Security? Physical Restraints in Kentucky Nursing Homes

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If you were to hear that staff in the Kentucky nursing home where your mother or father live were using physical restraints on her or him, you would likely be appalled and enraged. You may have every reason to feel that way—but not always.

Some older people appreciate the security of bedrails that keep them from falling out of bed or wheelchair bars that they can lean on for support. Generally speaking, though, nursing home residents regard restraint as a negative, even traumatic experience, producing feelings of

  • shame;
  • loss of dignity;
  • anxiety;
  • aggression;
  • social isolation; and
  • disillusionment.

Patients in nursing homes are restrained for various reasons—some ethical, some not. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examined the clinical and ethical considerations of using physical restraints in nursing homes. The article was published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Definition of Physical Restraint

A physical restraint has three characteristics:

  1. It is an item that is attached to or near a person’s body.
  2. It cannot be manipulated or removed by that person.
  3. Its purpose is to prevent the person from either moving or having access to his or her body.

Some of the restraints that may be found in nursing homes include the following:

  • vests;
  • straps or belts;
  • limb ties;
  • wheelchair bars and brakes;
  • chairs that tip back;
  • sheets tucked in tightly; and
  • bedrails.

Who Is Being Restrained?

Generally speaking, elderly people with the following characteristics are the most likely nursing home residents to be restrained:

  • physical disabilities;
  • limited mobility;
  • behavioral or cognitive problems;
  • high dependence on aid with multiple daily tasks; and
  • a history of falling.

Why Are They Being Restrained?

A number of circumstances could lead to nursing home residents being restrained by staff members, including

  • safety considerations, such as the risk of the resident harming him- or herself, harming others, or falling;
  • a shortage of nursing home staff to care for the residents;
  • the family’s request;
  • routine behavior;
  • a negative or paternal attitude toward elderly people;
  • fear of litigation;
  • ignorance of the negative effect of physical restraints on the resident;
  • ignorance of alternatives to physical restraint; and
  • limited ability of the staff to deal with difficult behaviors.

The Physical Harm Being Done

In recent years, society has come to disdain and discourage the use of physical restraints on elderly people. The possible physical consequences of such restraints include the following:

  • bruises;
  • bedsores (decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers);
  • respiratory problems;
  • urinary incontinence;
  • constipation;
  • undernutrition;
  • less ability to perform daily activities;
  • loss of balance;
  • loss of muscle strength;
  • decrease in cardiovascular endurance;
  • increased agitation; and
  • increased risk of death by strangulation, fracture, or head trauma.

Has Your Loved One Been Injured In A Nursing Home?

If you believe your loved one is being subjected to nursing home abuse you need to speak with an experienced Kentucky nursing home neglect attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 888.450.4456 to schedule a free consultation.