Articles Posted in Physical Restraints

Under California law elder abuse is both a criminal and civil offense. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse can includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm. The unnecessary use of physical restraints in California nursing homes is illegal and may rise to the level of both a criminal and civil offense.

Physical restraints may be used to prevent an elder in a nursing home from falling out of a bed or a chair. In certain cases, the use of these devices, such as bedrails, may be helpful. In other instances however, the use of physical restraints may be deadly. Sadly, as a result of diminished capacity due to a senior’s advanced age, physical confinement, and medical condition, it is often difficult for victims of elder abuse to speak out. That is why it is important for anyone who witnesses or suspects than an elder is being physically restrained against their will in a nursing home, to speak out.

Signs and symptoms that a loved one may be physically restrained without their consent may include:

•Incontinence
•Agitation
•Weak muscles
•Chronic Constipation
•Bed sores
•Loss of mobility
•Frequent illness
•Poor circulation
•Withdrawal
•Depression

If you suspect an elder is being abused in any capacity, including being physically restrained while in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home; report the incident to both the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman and your local law enforcement.
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In spite of the fact that in California, the use of physical restraints on residents of long term care facilities is illegal, many elders are victims of this type of abuse. Unfortunately the use of physical restraints on elders in California is not only illegal, but gravely dangerous as well. Although physical restraints are often used, recommended or prescribed, most studies have shown that the use of physical restraints provides far more risks than benefits.

Every resident of every nursing home in California has the right to be free from any restraint imposed by the staff, unless specifically ordered by a doctor to treat a medical condition or to help the resident to function better. That means that you cannot be restrained by any staff member of a nursing home without your explicit consent.

But what exactly is considered a physical restraint? Generally speaking, physical restraints are defined as anything used to restrict the movement of an elder resident in a nursing home. These may include:

•Arm restraints
•Hand mitts
•Vests
•Leg restraints
•Soft ties

Other types of physical restraining methods involve the placement of items in the path of an elder resident so as to restrict their movement and mobility. Examples include:

•Placement of trays, bars, belts on wheelchairs
•Placement of wheelchair so that resident cannot move it
•Placement of bedrails so that resident cannot get out of bed
•Sheets tightly placed on the bed of elderly patient preventing movement.

The use of physical and chemical restraints in California nursing homes is sometimes a necessary way of protecting patients from injuring themselves and others. When used excessively or without consent, the practice becomes outright abusive. Too often physical restraints are used o make a staff member’s job easier, rather than help the resident. Overuse of restraints is exacerbated by the growing number of understaffed nursing facilities.
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