Just because a person becomes elderly and frail, and they may not have perfect command of their mind due to dementia, this does not mean that they are no longer entitled to maintain their dignity and rights as a human being. Physical and chemical restraints are sometimes used in a nursing home environment in an attempt to control the behavior of residents despite the fact that the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987 prohibits the use of restraints as a means of controlling behavior or convenience.
Common forms of chemical and physical restraints used in nursing homes
A nursing care facility may be understaffed and they are using physical restraints as a convenience in order to control the movement of residents. Patients who suffer from dementia may be difficult to manage, so the nursing home may over medicate them in order to keep them docile enough for the staff to be able to care for their needs. Some examples of physical and chemical restraints include:
- Straps, belts, vests
- Wheelchair bars and brakes
- Chairs that tip backwards
- Tucking bed sheets in so tightly that the resident is unable to move
- Locking a resident in their room
- Side rails on a bed (when used to keep an ambulatory patient from getting up on their own)
Chemical restraints may include the use of sedatives, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety, anti-depressants and other medications for the purpose of controlling resident's behavior.
Risks associated with the use of physical or chemical restraints
The excessive use of chemical restraints can cause an individual to suffer from over-sedation, confusion, fatigue, dehydration and lack of appetite. The drugs used to chemically restrain the resident might conflict with other medications that the person might be taking. The physical consequences are also quite serious, and may lead to:
- Decubitus ulcers
- Urinary incontinence and constipation
- Loss of muscle tone and weakness
- Bone weakness
- Cardiovascular problems
- Increased agitation
Nursing home residents have rights
Under federal law, nursing home residents are protected by several laws including the specified rights listed in the Residents’ Rights of Kentucky, which includes the right to be free from restraints, physical or mental abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion and any physical or chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience and not required to treat the resident's medical condition. These are all outlined in the Federal Rights of Nursing Facility Residents as well.
What you can do if your loved one is under unnecessary restraint
If you are visiting a loved one and you can see that they are being physically restrained by nursing home staff, or they seem unresponsive or over-medicated, you can report what you see to the nursing facility administrators, and you can also report it to the state authority. Even if it is another resident that you see not receiving proper care being restrained or even neglected, you can report the incident and make sure that the situation is addressed immediately.
If you believe that your loved one is being abused or neglected by nursing home staff you may be able to take legal action against the facility on their behalf. Our compassionate nursing home negligence attorneys in Kentucky can help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact Crandall & Pera Law today for a free consultation. We have offices in Lexington and Louisville to serve you.