Out of Control: Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes

Nursing home abuse takes many forms, and can include physical, emotional and financial manifestations.  One area where abuse may be hard to detect is in the use of both physical and chemical restraints on nursing home residents.

The Boston Globe recently found that in one nursing home it examined in Beverly, Massachusetts, nineteen percent of residents who did not have mental conditions that required psychoactive drugs received those drugs anyway, even though they were not appropriate.  Treatment with drugs that are not medically necessary in order to put the resident into a stupor is a type of chemical restraint, and constitutes nursing home abuse.

Even though chemical restraints were once commonly used to keep nursing home residents from violence and injury, it has become clear that their unchecked use is not in the best interest of the resident, and in fact, can easily become a tool of abuse.  A patient who is improperly restrained can suffer from muscle atrophy, freezing of the joints and other physical as well as psychological harm.

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 regulates the use of restraints, limiting them to cases where they are necessary for safety or medical treatment.  Instead of a blanket permission to use restraints, a doctor’s authorization must be continually renewed in order to prevent restraints from being used to just keep the resident quiet.  The types of restraints that may be used are also regulated to ensure that they provide effective security for patients, but with a level of comfort and dignity.

The Miami Herald ran a tragically shocking expose of Florida nursing homes in 2011, showing that a flagrant disregard for the law, and often-brutal abuse of nursing home residents, are all too common in our state.

If you suspect that a friend or relative has been subjected to nursing home abuse, contact us for guidance on how to protect your loved one from further suffering.

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