Physical Restraints In Nursing Homes: What You Need To Know

Use of physical restraints in nursing homes is a controversial topic. While there are specific circumstances that may warrant their use, in general, use of physical or chemical restraints is viewed as inappropriate. In 1987, Congress took steps toward outlawing use of restraints in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities unless their use was absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, continuing efforts to stop the use of restraints has not completely solved the issue.

What are Physical Restraints?

Physical restraints include any device, mechanical or otherwise, that is attached to the resident’s body. Physical restraints serve the purpose of restricting movement or freedom, including access to the individual’s own body. In most cases, physical restraints are placed in such a way that the resident is unable to free him or herself.

The most common forms of physical restraint include:

Lap tables or trays
Hand mitts
Soft ties
Lap cushions
Specialized chairs

Guidelines for Use of Physical Restraints

According to, it is against the law for skilled nursing facilities to use physical or chemical restraints, with the exception of necessary such medical treatments. Use of physical restraints is considered inappropriate and unethical except for in the following specific circumstances:

The resident/patient is a harm to him or herself or others
The resident/patient requires medical treatment where restraint is necessary
During these circumstances, it is important that proper safety and ethical guidelines be followed to prevent injury. The threat of physical injury is significant, and can include weakening or atrophy of the muscles, inability to walk, development of bedsores, and poor hygiene. In addition to the concerns over physical safety, physical restraints are also considered a threat to the emotions and mental wellbeing of the resident.

Know Your Rights and Get Help

State laws concerning physical restraints in nursing homes vary. There are federal laws and guidelines that discuss the potential dangers of inappropriate restraint use, but there is still a risk of danger in some nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. It is important that anyone considering relocation to a nursing home (for themselves or a loved one) explore their legal rights to be free from unnecessary restraint.

Anyone who feels that they or a love one has suffered injury due to needless or negligent physically restrained should contact a nursing home abuse attorney. With the help of a nursing home abuse attorney, nursing home residents and their loved ones can better understand their rights and the law, and any potential options to seek recovery.

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