Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Lawyers
Physical and Chemical Restraints in Nursing Homes
Nursing home understaffing has long been an issue in the United States. This has only worsened with the shortage of qualified nursing home staff. A short-term solution for an understaffed facility is to restrain residents, often unnecessarily. Unnecessary restraint is a form of nursing home abuse. If your family member has been injured due to an unnecessary physical or chemical restraint in their nursing home, you have legal options available. At Janicek Law, our nursing home abuse attorneys focus on seeking justice for the abused. Our experienced attorneys fight aggressively to uncover the truth and punish the abusers. Schedule a free case evaluation with the San Antonio nursing home abuse attorneys at Janicek Law by calling 210-366-4949.
What Are Physical and Chemical Restraints?
Physical restraints deliberately intend to restrict the free movement of residents. Chemical restraints can control residents by keeping them docile. Restraints should be a last resort after all other alternative interventions fail. The use of medically necessary restraints should be re-evaluated regularly and not in use 24/7.
Physical restraint use keeps a resident from moving their body and is often used for patients who have a higher fall risk. Chemical restraint use involves psychoactive drugs to sedate patients. Antipsychotic medications can keep patients from harming themselves or others, but these restraints are often overused to make care easier for nursing home staff.
Types of Physical Restraints
Physical restraints are any type of restraint that deliberately prevents a person’s normal access to their body. This type of restraint can also restrict freedom of movement. A physical restraint can simply be a sheet or blanket tucked tightly around the resident to prevent free movement. A physical restraint can also be a mechanical device used to restrict a person’s free body movement. A physical or mechanical device can include hand mitts, bed ties, and Posey vests. Posey vests leave the patient’s arms free, but prevent their trunk from leaving their bed or chair. Chairs known as “Geri Chairs” have trays that can attach and prevent the resident from leaving the chair.
Types of Chemical Restraints
Antipsychotic drugs are often used to help control the psychological symptoms of residents with dementia. Overuse can result in severe consequences for the resident. In a 2018 exposé, 96% of Texas nursing homes give unnecessary drugs to patients who don’t need them.
Antipsychotic drugs have an immobilizing effect on patients who don’t need them. Nursing homes can also use sedatives to keep patients asleep for the majority of the day–after all, a sleeping patient can’t complain. Unfortunately, these medications can cause extreme side effects for nursing home residents.
Why Do Nursing Homes Use Restraints?
Using a physical or chemical restraint gives members of staff more power over a nursing home resident. Restraints can sometimes be part of a resident’s medical treatment, but this is based on a large number of factors. The end goal has patient safety in mind. With unnecessary physical and chemical restraints, the end goal is more about the comfort of staff members. Many nursing homes are severely understaffed, but this is no excuse to restrain residents instead of treating them like the people they are.
Does the Nursing Home Reform Act Prevent Nursing Homes from Using Restraints?
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 (also known as the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or OBRA ‘87) was the first piece of legislation that set legal expectations for long-term care facilities and their staff. This act focused on the rights of residents and setting standards for their care. This act prohibits the use of physical or chemical restraints for the purpose of discipline or convenience. Nursing home residents have a right to restraint-free care. The act did not, however, outlaw restraints entirely. Restraints are still used to protect patients from themselves or from harming other residents. Patients who have a higher risk of falling are commonly restrained for their own protection. Violent patients are often kept docile for the physical safety of the nursing home staff and other residents. Unfortunately, these restraints often have harmful effects on residents.
Harmful Effects of Using Restraints in Nursing Homes
Chemical or physical restraints can have adverse effects on a person’s body. This is especially true if they have other medical conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Restraints carry an increased risk of death, muscle atrophy, injury, and cardiac arrest. Antipsychotic drugs have a serious impact on the cardiovascular system of patients with dementia. Nursing homes continue to use these medications to sedate residents.
Injuries Caused by Physical and Chemical Restraints
Physical and chemical restraint use can cause injuries in nursing home residents. This can include bedsores, increased falls, lower quality of life, and even death.
Bedsores are also known as pressure ulcers. This injury is caused by prolonged pressure and is often seen in patients who have been restrained or have mobility issues. If patients are not moved regularly by staff members, these pressure wounds can develop and cause extensive damage to the skin. Stage four ulcers can even go as deep as the bone.
Increased Fall Risk
Patients who spend most of their time restrained to their bed or chair can develop muscle atrophy and muscle weakness. This can cause major balance issues and increase their risk of falling when not in the bed or chair.
Effect on Mental Health
Many patients who are subjected to physical and chemical restraints are unable to consent to the practice. Being tied down or force-fed oral medication for sedation can take a serious toll on the mental health and well-being of the patient. They cannot make decisions for themselves and are often frightened by these measures.
How A Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse Attorney Can Help
Healthcare professionals, including nursing home staff, have a duty to provide safe and effective medical treatment for their patients. A qualified nursing home neglect and abuse lawyer can help prove that the nursing home staff members unnecessarily used restraints on a resident and caused injuries. A nursing home will do everything in its power to hide evidence or try to offer you a settlement to keep you from going public with the abuse. In these cases, the abuse will often continue and nothing will change. You need an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to help fight aggressively for the protected rights of you and your family.
A strong nursing home abuse case must prove the 4 D’s of negligence. You and your legal team must prove that the staff members had a duty of care to the resident, breached the duty of care, caused an injury, and the injury caused financial damages. Financial compensation will not do anything to change what happened, but it can hold the nursing home and its staff accountable for their abuse. A lawsuit can prevent the staff members from treating other residents the same way and provide compensation to your family. Compensation can prevent your family from accruing a mountain of medical debt for an injury caused by a nursing facility. At Janicek Law, our attorneys fight aggressively for compensation such as:
- Medical treatment, including therapy for trauma associated with abuse
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Mental anguish
- And more