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Not all restraints in nursing homes are visible

There is nothing as sacred to us in the United States as our independence. Take that from us and we feel we have lost our very lives. This is one reason why it can be difficult for some in Illinois to even consider the thought of having to go to a nursing home.

Sometimes, circumstances may make it necessary for the safety of a loved one and the rest of the community to make such a move. We have written about this before. Sometimes the decision has to be made on behalf of loved ones. But that does not give anyone the right to limit that resident's freedoms without consulting the appropriate medical professionals and designated family decision makers.

These are tough issues and the law says that what should drive any action ought to be the desire to find the least invasive solution to achieve a balance between safety and maintaining resident freedom. If ever there is concern over nursing home care has tipped the scales too far one way or the other, hindering independence or decreasing safety, contacting an attorney about your rights is advised. It costs nothing to consult and no attorney fee is charged unless a case is taken and won.

Unfortunately, as more than one government study has recorded, despite an increased risk of death to patients, many nursing home residents with dementia are being prescribed antipsychotic drugs off-label for behavior control. These might include such recognizable brand names as Abilify, Clozaril, Cyprexa or Risperdal. And they tend to be used more in facilities with low staffing levels. And what can make them most insidious is that they are invisible.

To be clear, there are times when restraint of a resident may be appropriate. However, regardless of the form it takes, Illinois law forbids use of physical or chemical restraint without obtaining proper informed consent.

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