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Restraints In Nursing Homes: Is It Time For A Change?

The use of restraints in nursing homes is a controversial topic, with one side calling for their use to protect their loved ones health, and the other side calling for their elimination to protect their loved ones independence. Both health and independence are important, but as it stands, many believe that the law is inadequate to protect both health and independence simultaneously. The Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Rosenberg, Eisenberg & Associates, LLC, recognize the importance of this debate, and hope to see the law revisited and perfected.

Illinois Law defines two types of restraints, physical and chemical:

  • Physical restraints are defined as "any manual method or physical or mechanical device... that the resident cannot remove easily and restricts freedom of movement or normal access to one's body..."
  • Chemical restraints are defined as "any drug used for discipline or convenience and not required to treat medical symptoms.

Illinois law restricts the use of restraints, and allows their use only when "informed consent" is obtained, and only when it is the "least restrictive means necessary to attain and maintain the resident's highest practicable physical, mental or psychosocial well-being." Further, nursing homes cannot begin using restraints until they have consulted with appropriate medical professionals and have had a trial of less restrictive measures.

These restrictions on restraints serve an important purpose, namely to try to prevent taking nursing home residents freedoms away unnecessarily. These laws serve to protect residents from nursing homes who would use physical and chemical restraints to make their jobs easier.

While these restrictions are important, they also need to be balanced. It is important to make sure that residents who really do need restraints can get them. Opponents to the stringent restraint laws believe that a resident with severe dementia, hallucinations, gait abnormalities, and a tendency to suddenly and abruptly get out of their wheelchair should have the right to use a seat belt or lap buddy, if that is what the family chooses, to prevent a fall which often times can lead to significant injury or death. Opponents to the restraint laws believe that even when restraints are desired by the family, it is difficult to get them implemented.

If you think your loved one is being inappropriately restrained, speak to a nursing home attorney today about your rights. In the alternative, if you're loved one has suffered a fall or injury in a nursing home because a facility failed to implement appropriate precautions to protect them, call an attorney about your rights. There may be time limits to bring a claim, so act quickly.

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