Nursing home restraints could create more problems than they solve.

Carl Saiontz

By Carl Saiontz
Posted March 29, 2008


The use of nursing home restraints is a common practice at many nursing homes throughout the United States. However, some facilities excessively use restraining devices not only to prevent residents from injuring themselves, but also as a form of punishment or as a matter of convenience. Due to concerns about the physical and emotional injuries which can be caused by nursing home restraints, the use has declined 40% in recent years, and many believe it should drop even further with better methods being implemented to protect residents.

>>INFORMATION: Nursing Home Restraint Injuries

Physical restraints in nursing homes could include the use of devices such as wheelchair belts, bed rails or any other item which is designed to confine the resident. In prior years, it was commonly thought that restraints were helping to protect the elderly and ill residents, keeping them from falling or wandering off from the home. However, excessive use of nursing home restraints could lead to bed sores, dehydration, depression, muscle weakness and decreases in the overall health of elderly residents.

In 1987, the Federal government made it illegal for restraints to be used as a form of discipline or for the staff’s convenience in dealing with an unruly resident. Physical restraints should only be used when medically necessary. As research has shown that restraints could increase the risk of injury caused by lost strength and diminished quality of life, the industry has seen an overall reduction in the use of the devices over the past five years.

According to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, about 5.9% of long-term nursing home residents were physically restrained repeatedly in 2006, which is down from 9.7% in 2002. With approximately 1.5 million long-term patients, that means that nearly 90,000 residents are still being restrained on a regular basis. A coalition formed by nursing homes, consumer groups and other organizations, known as Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Homes, has set a goal to reduce the number of nursing home residents restrained repeatedly by 30,000. The timeline for the goal is September of this year.

The risk of a nursing home restraint injury is real, and many families and facilities are pushing for use of newer technology and careful attention to the residents’ needs as a substitute for restraints. To help prevent nursing home falls and injuries associated with wandering away from nursing homes, many facilities are using sensors and alarm bracelets to detect if a resident attempts to leave without supervision. Other methods, such as lowering the bed all the way to floor, have also been implemented in some cases to reduce the risk of an injury from falling out of bed.


The nursing home lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. represent individuals who have suffered severe and life-altering injuries as a result of negligent care provided by a nursing home. Families rely on nursing homes to protect and care for loved ones, and excessive or improper use of nursing home restraints can have a devastating impact on the overall health of a resident.

If you, a friend or loved one have suffered a nursing home restraint injury or experienced other serious problems caused by nursing home neglect, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.

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