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Improper Use of Restraints in Kentucky Nursing Homes

Has Your Loved One Been Restrained?

All residents shall be free from mental and physical abuse, and free from chemical and physical restraints except in emergencies or except as thoroughly justified in writing by a physician for a specified and limited period of time and documented in the resident’s medical record.” – Residents’ Rights for Residents in Kentucky Long-Term Care Facilities

Kentucky law recognizes there are times when nursing home residents may need to be restrained, but the law makes it clear that the use of restraints should be an exception and not a rule.

When restraints are used as discipline or punishment, or for the convenience of staff, rather than to protect the resident from a threat of harm to self or others, the Louisville nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at the Slechter Law Firm can step in to put a stop to the abuse and make sure residents are fully compensated for any harm done.

When Are Restraints Allowed in Nursing Homes?

Restraints should only be used when a resident is at risk of harming him or herself, other residents, or staff. This risk may be present due to issues such as cognitive or behavioral disorders, functional disabilities or mobility issues, or a history of falls. Under Kentucky law, restraints may only be used in emergencies or according to a doctor’s orders and for a specific, limited amount of time.

The need for restraints should be documented in the resident’s medical record and plan of care to treat a specific medical symptom, and this need should be reviewed annually by an independent, external expert.

Before restraints are implemented, staff should look for less restrictive means first, and if restraints are used, staff should minimize their use as much as possible. It is important to look at how and why restraints are being used. Their use should be to improve a resident’s quality of life, and not to worsen it.

What Are the Forms of Nursing Home Restraint?

There are many ways a resident may be physically restrained. Beyond the obvious, such as belts, straps, vests, and limb ties, it is important to understand that a resident may also be restrained in less obvious ways.

Bed rails, tightly tucked-in sheets, wheelchair bars, brakes, lap cushions, trays, and tables can all provide a means of restraint. It is important to look at how and why these mechanisms are being used. If they are restraining the resident, there must be a valid medical reason to implement them.

Being locked in a room and isolated is another type of restraint that may certainly be a form of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Another form of restraint is chemical restraint. This includes the use of sedatives, antipsychotics, and anxiolytics (anxiety-reducing drugs). Along with physical restraints, the use of chemical restraints may be implemented as a routine measure to make workers’ jobs easier, or it may be implemented as a form of punishment, discipline, or ill will toward a specific resident.

The excessive use of restraints can be a sign of an employee’s negative job attitude or simply the lack of ability or willingness to deal with problem behaviors in more appropriate ways.

Nursing Home Restraints Can Cause Serious and Lasting Injuries

The improper use of restraints can lead to neglect, a lack of appropriate care, and very real and serious harm. Nursing home residents who are improperly restrained may suffer from any of the following:

  • Bedsores

  • Bruises

  • Urinary incontinence and constipation

  • Malnutrition/undernourishment

  • Loss of independence, muscle strength, and balance

  • Lower cardiovascular ability, respiratory trouble

  • Depression and mental illness

  • Emotional trauma, loss of self-respect and dignity, shame, loss of identity

Using restraints as a means of dealing with a problem behavior rather than seeking a proper medical evaluation can cause staff to overlook a serious underlying medical condition.

Do Not Let Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Go Unchecked

If you believe that restraints were applied to a loved one in a nursing home without proper medical reason or authorization, talk to an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer about how to proceed. Call for legal advocacy anywhere in Kentucky, Indiana, or Tennessee. You may also email us for a no-cost, confidential consultation with our compassionate and dedicated attorneys.