Stand up for your loved one's dignity and independence
We trust nursing homes not just to care for our loved ones' basic needs but also to respect their dignity and maximize their remaining quality of life. Unfortunately, for some families in Alabama, that's not what happens. Too often, nursing homes make use of unlawful or unnecessary restraints, which is a serious form of nursing home abuse. Our law firm fights hard to hold them accountable.
What is a restraint?
A physical restraint is any device or method used to limit a resident's movement. Some restraints are clearly designed to restrain, such as leg restraints, soft ties, loop fasteners, and straps.
Other devices can serve multiple purposes but may function as a restraint depending on how they are used. Bedrails, for example, can be used to help residents turn over in bed, but they can also be employed specifically to stop a resident from getting out of bed. Lap trays serve an obviously useful purpose at mealtimes, but they also block residents from standing up. Other types of dual-purpose restraints include tightly fitted sheets, lap cushions, and orthotic devices.
In addition to physical restraints, there is the highly unethical and unacceptable practice of "chemical restraint" — that is, deliberately over-medicating a resident to keep them docile. Chemical restraints are extremely dangerous, with a high risk of cognitive impairment, falls, respiratory issues, and other complications.
When is it acceptable to restrain a nursing home resident?
Regardless of the type of restraint used, a physical restraint is a medical device that should only be employed when medically necessary.
There are some scenarios where nursing homes really do need to restrain residents. If a resident's behavior is erratic and aggressive, restraints might be used to keep the resident, other residents, and staff safe. Immobilization may also be necessary to administer certain medications or to allow residents to recover from injuries like broken bones.
However, even in those scenarios, the nursing home can't just decide to use a restraint. Like any other medical device, restraints must be approved by a physician who determines that they are medically necessary. The nursing home must also use the least restrictive method possible, re-evaluate the use of restraints frequently, document each instance, and act with appropriate care to protect the resident's health and well-being.
Unfortunately, too many nursing homes use restraints for discipline, convenience, or to lower the workload in an understaffed facility. This is absolutely unacceptable and brings a host of potential risks for residents.
What are the consequences of unnecessary restraints?
Being restrained, in and of itself, can cause nursing home residents great pain and discomfort. Moreover, if a resident is physically restrained for an extended period of time, they may develop medical conditions such as bedsores (pressure ulcers) and urinary tract infections. Movement is necessary for elderly people to maintain their health, so a medically unnecessary restraint can put their health at risk. And as previously mentioned, "chemical restraints" can be even more dangerous to the resident's health.
Beyond the physical effects, being restrained is an intensely traumatic experience that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems. It also destroys trust between residents and staff, which can cause further problems with quality of care down the road.
Can you sue a nursing home for unnecessary restraints?
The short answer is "yes," but you have to prove it. The nursing home may deny the restraint happened or argue that it was medically necessary. They may argue that a dual-purpose device was not intended to restrain your loved one, even though that's what it did. They may also argue that medical complications were unrelated to the restraint itself. Piecing together what happened in a nursing home is often a difficult task, especially if the only witnesses are residents who have difficulty remembering or communicating what they saw.
That's why you need an experienced nursing home abuse attorney who knows Alabama law and has the resources to investigate abusive nursing homes. Attorney Perry Shuttlesworth has extensive experience representing victims of nursing home abuse and building strong cases that hold negligent facilities accountable. If your loved one was unnecessarily restrained in a nursing home, give us a call or contact us online for a free consultation.