Physical restraints do not prevent injury and often represent a safety hazard for the resident of a Kingston, New York nursing home.

30 years ago physical and chemical restraints were common in nursing homes.  Fortunately, we've come a long way since then, at least with the use of restraints in nursing homes.  Why are restraints used less frequently and what dangers are posed by restraints?

First, the basics.  Physical restraints are items designed to restrict, restrain and prevent the movement of a person.  Physical restraints can take many forms that vary in the degree that they limit the movement of a nursing home resident. Restraints are most often used to prevent a patient from pulling out catheters and IV tubes when they are combative or confused, i.e., patients suffering from alcohol withdrawal often need to be restrained to prevent them from harming themselves.

Why are restraints less common today than 25 years ago?  Studies have proven that restraints often cause more harm than good.  Restrained patients often injure themselves while struggling to get free of the restraints and restraints often increase the risk of falling.  Just as significant is the fact that restraints are humuliating for the patient and increases their depression and feelings of hopelessness.  For many reasons, the federal government has been working to reduce the use of restraints in nursing homes and hospitals.

Physical restraints cannot be used in nursing homes without a doctor's order.  Before a physician can order restraints, all other alternatives must be tried.  Restraints are a last resort in nursing homes.  the physician must specify the medical reason for usng the restraint, the circumstances under which it can be used, and the length of time over which it can be used.

After a doctor's order is in place, the patient being restrained must be checked every fifteen minutes and repositioned every two hours if they are confined to one position. The doctor's order must be renewed at a minimum once every four hours.  This means that the doctor  must do an independent assessment of the patient's need for restraints every four hours.

Because restraints are more likely to cause harm than prevent it, the use of restraints is frowned upon and when used, there are specific federal regulations that mandate close monitoring of the restrained patient.  If the nursing home is using restraints on your family member, make sure you get an explanation why from the physician who placed the order.  You want to make sure your loved one is closely monitored by the staff due to the increased hazards posed by restraints.