Los Angeles Nursing Homes Improperly Using Physical Restraints on Residents

A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, titled “Use of Physical Restraints in Nursing Homes and Hospitals and Related Factors: a Cross-Sectional Study,” studies the risks of using physical restraints in hospitals and nursing homes. The article defines a physical restraint as any device that limits the freedom of an individual’s movement. For example, bedrails, belts, geriatric tables, mechanical devices, straps, and vests are just a few of the different types of physical restraints that are commonly used in skilled nursing facilities.

By examining seventy-six nursing homes, the study aimed to identify the various factors that are related to the use of restraints in skilled nursing facilities. The study also considered the usage of physical restraints in hospitals as a basis of comparison in drawing conclusions about the reason that the use of physical restraints is so prevalent in nursing homes. While only 9.3% of hospital patients were found to be restrained, 26.3% of nursing home residents who participated in the study were subject to restraint at some point during their residency. Some shared characteristics of the patients who were restrained include disorientation and the presence of cognitive disorders, such as dementia, that may have caused the patient to wander. However, of the patients who were physically restrained, those who resided in nursing homes were usually determined to be at a lower risk of falling than those in hospitals.

Nurses in healthcare facilities often restrain patients unnecessarily. Usually, this phenomenon can be explained by understaffing. A previous study has shown that 37% of nursing homes used restraints because of shortages in staffing. As nurses are assigned far more responsibilities than they can single-handedly accomplish, they often feel that they are left with no other option than to restrain their patients. However, it is the duty of the skilled nursing facility to hire an appropriate amount of staff to sufficiently provide your loved one with the individualized care that he or she deserves and requires.

The patients who were physically restrained in nursing homes were also found to be more incontinent than those in hospitals. Incontinence is actually one of the consequences of restraint usage, so therefore, it makes sense that incontinence rates are higher in skilled nursing facilities, since use of physical restraints in nursing homes is so prevalent. Incontinence can lead to serious psychological problems, such as feelings of loss in dignity that no human being should ever have to experience. Some other psychological problems related to the use of physical restraints in general include embarrassment, feelings of confinement, aggression, social isolation, and anxiety. Furthermore, additional health complications include pressure ulcers, aspiration and breathing problems, agitation, constipation, decreased cardiovascular endurance and balance, and increased dependency in activities of daily living.

The study asserts that physical restraints fail to decrease the occurrence of falls, and that when falls do happen, the consequences are actually worsened by the presence of a physical restraint. There have been instances when fractures and suffocation directly caused by restraints have led to death. A direct quote from the article sums up the danger of using physical restraints effectively and concisely: “Physical restraints restrict persons in their human rights, do not protect them from harm, but are always harmful and should be avoided.” The use of physical restraints is ethically and legally wrong. It is extremely important for you to ensure that your loved one’s rights are not being violated, and that his or her physical and mental well-being is not at risk.


Contact us today if you feel that your loved one is being physically restrained unjustly. We are happy to provide you with a free consultation and help you with any pressing legal matters and concerns that you may have regarding your loved one’s rights.