Individuals in nursing homes are entitled to certain rights when it comes to the care they receive. Certain needs and wants are required to be met per state and federal law. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. If a staff member gets overwhelmed, they may try to restrain a resident to make their job easier. When this is done illegally, and without a medical doctor’s permission, legal action can be taken—especially if harm occurred. If your loved one has been injured, an Illinois nursing home physical and chemical restraint lawyer can help.
Unreasonable Physical Restraint in Nursing Homes
To physically restrain a resident, staff have to use a physical or mechanical device attached or placed next to the resident’s body. The device restricts movement and cannot be controlled or removed by the resident.
When a resident in a long-term care facility is regularly restrained, they may experience decreased cognitive function, increase agitation, bedsores, urinary incontinence or chronic constipation, loss of muscle function, fractures, or increased bone fragility.
When multiple restraints are used on a single patient, the likelihood of an accident causing a fatality increases. This is especially true if the resident tries to climb over, under, through, around, or between the restraints. Depending on the type of restraint used, the resident could experience fatal strangulation or suffocation.
Common examples of physical restraints include the following:
- Restrictive chairs
- Hand mitts
- Wrist or ankle restraints
- Tightly tucked bed sheets
- Placing a wheelchair-bound resident against a wall
- Vests that are tied to a bed
If a nursing home claims that physical restraints were used on your loved one to prevent a fall, it’s important to know that research has shown that restraints are not effective at preventing falls and the resulting injuries. In fact, restraints that prohibit movement increase the chances of getting injured while moving around.
Deliberate Overmedication in Nursing Homes
Chemical restraints are used to alter a resident’s behavior or state of consciousness. In situations where chemical restraints are warranted, sedatives can calm patients who pose a risk to themselves or others. By law, however, these medications are to be used as a last resort. Some of the most common chemical restraints you’ll find in nursing homes include the following:
- Antipsychotics. These medications are commonly associated with chemical restraints, as they are used to treat anxiety and calm patients experiencing psychosis. Common medications include droperidol, haloperidol, risperidone, and olanzapine.
- Benzodiazepines. Benzos are muscle relaxers and sedatives that help patients who deal with insomnia or panic attacks. In nursing homes, lorazepam and midazolam are the most common.
- Dissociative Anesthetics. These medications place patients in a hallucinatory state where their perceptions of sight and sound are altered. As a result, the patient has a harder time grasping a sense of reality. These are the least commonly used when it comes to chemical restraints.
When chemical restraints are misused to control pacing, restlessness, or uncooperative behavior, they can impact cognitive function, cause disorientation or confusion, and decrease a resident’s overall quality of life.
Nursing Home Restraints and the Nursing Home Reform Act
To understand your rights when it comes to holding facilities accountable for unnecessary restraint of your loved one, it’s important to understand the laws at play. The federal Nursing Home Reform Act discusses restraint. The act says, “the resident has the right to be free from any physical or chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience, and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.” So, while restraints are not prohibited entirely, strict guidelines have to be met before restraints are allowed.
Legally, restraints can only be used to ensure the physical safety of a resident and other residents. Unless there is an emergency, restraints can only be used when a doctor writes the order. Residents who may require restraint include those with low cognitive performance, those taking antipsychotic medications, and those with a history of falls. In the event a doctor writes an order for restraint, the order needs to include details of the duration and circumstances under which the restraints can be used.
If a resident is restrained unnecessarily, the facility should be held accountable for negligence, and the victim deserves compensation for any damages and pain and suffering.
Seek Help From Thomas Law Offices
Nursing home residents deserve to be treated with respect. When a facility wrongfully restrains a resident, regardless of its reasoning, it should be held accountable. If your loved one has been mistreated, an Illinois nursing home physical and chemical restraint lawyer can help.
Our attorneys are aware of the struggles families face when they learn their loved ones haven’t been properly taken care of in a nursing home. That’s why we’re here to provide strong legal representation when it’s needed most. To learn more about how to proceed after an incident, contact us today.