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Does use of restraints in nursing homes constitute abuse?

As a family, when you take the decision to house a vulnerable or elderly relative in a nursing home, you expect them to be treated with dignity and respect. Nursing homes owe a legal duty of care to their residents, and this should be honored at all times.

Occasionally, a difficult situation may arise in the home, and physical restraints might be used. Is this ever justified, or does it constitute abuse?

Are staff in danger?

State law in Missouri only permits the use of physical restraints when all other options have been exhausted. There must be a legitimate threat to the safety of staff or residents. Generally, this should be done under the supervision of a medical professional who can accurately assess the physical and mental well-being of the individual being restrained.

Those who have been restrained must also not be left unsupervised for long periods and should have access to an emergency alarm which means they can call for help if required.

When restraints become abuse

Physical restraints should only be used if absolutely necessary. If they are used because a facility is understaffed or there is a lack of experience in how to handle tricky situations, this could count as abuse. When a person has been restrained and left to their own devices, with no food, water or care, this is neglect, which also counts as a form of abuse.

If you suspect that a family member has been restrained unlawfully, then there are a host of options open to you. It’s probably in your best interests to seek some legal guidance on the matter so you can reach a resolution.