The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a new study on May 23rd about restraints in nursing homes. The article, Effects of a Guideline-Based Multicomponent Intervention on Use of Physical Restraints in Nursing Homes, detailed the problems with physical restraints in nursing homes—they are unsafe and often illegal or against the standard of care.
Types of Physical Restraints
Physical restraints are used for many reasons in nursing homes. Staff may be concerned that residents will fall out of bed or a wheelchair, will leave their rooms, or even leave the building (elopement). Staff might simply want an easier job—a restrained resident can, unfortunately, sometimes accomplish that goal. Approximately 20.4% of residents in United States nursing homes are forcibly restrained. Types of restraints include bed rails, belts, and wrist restraints.
Why Restraints Are Often Unnecessary
The study focused on the ability of nursing homes to use fewer restraints by changing the corporate culture. The nursing home staff and physicians must be focused on patient care, and can avoid the use of restraints by providing better hands-on care to their patients. The culture shift in the study was accomplished by group meetings with the nurses, extra training for key nurses, and educational material.
Preventing Nursing Home Falls
The key here is really direct patient care. Nursing homes with low staff-to-patient ratios unfortunately rely on restraints (or tranquilizing medication) to prevent falls because they don’t have the staff available to help patients move around, get to the bathroom, and deal with other everyday activities.
Patients who are not restrained in bed might fall because they cannot get up or go to the bathroom on their own, and there might not be any staff available or answering the call button. Restraints can be minimized— the beds can be lower to the ground to minimize the risk of fall injuries, for example.
Falls also happen when patients are not assisted throughout the nursing homes. Patients who need assistance rely on staff to help them. When staff doesn’t provide timely help, many seniors take the risk of moving on their own, with injurious effects.
These injuries can be caused by low staff, failures in policies and procedures, or even poor training, negligent hiring and negligent supervision.
We depend on nursing homes and other assisted living facilities to keep our families, friends and loved ones safe. When that trust is breached and a fall or restraint injury occurs, the victim may require assistance to pay for medical bills or to get relocated into a better living situation. If you need help to decide whether you have a nursing home injury lawsuit, contact our medical malpractice lawyers at 1.800.553.8082, or online for a free internet consultation.