Misuse of Physical Restraints in Colorado Nursing Homes

While nursing homes are permitted to use restraints in specific circumstances, nursing home staff often misuse them and leave residents restrained for hours, causing injuries, infection, and death.

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Nursing Home Justice Fights for Victims of Abuse

Bed restraints and chemical sedatives should only be used in extreme circumstances. Used incorrectly, they can put you or your relative at significant risk for harm. These unnecessary procedures result in several damages, requiring the help of an attorney who knows Colorado law and how to apply it to your case.

Nursing Home Justice doesn’t back down from abusive nursing homes and their goliath-like insurance companies. Mac Hester, the founding attorney of Nursing Home Justice, has over 35 years of legal experience and passionately defends victims of abuse. We treat each client like family and guide you on your path to recovery.

Contact attorney Mac Hester with Nursing Home Justice Today – (303) 775-8128.

What Are Restraints in Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes use restraints to contain at-risk residents and prevent them from wandering off or falling out of their beds. Restraints come in many forms. A patient might be physically strapped to their bed or chemically restrained using a sedative.

Either way, the goal is to provide a sense of structure in a nursing home when there aren’t enough staff members to accommodate each resident’s individual needs. Essentially, restraints are a lazy way to conduct a nursing home and only worsen a patient’s condition.

After all, it’s more convenient for understaffed nursing homes to sedate a patient for behavioral problems or confine them to a bed for hours rather than deal with the root issue.

Types of Physical Restraints

Physical restraints are any device or equipment preventing a person from freely moving about. Nursing homes might use one of the following methods to restrain patients physically:

  • Limb ties
  • Lap belts
  • Leg restraints
  • Bed rails
  • Hand mitts
  • Vests

Types of Chemical Restraints

Chemical restraints are drugs intended to subdue a resident temporarily or stabilize their mood. These restraints are often misused and extremely dangerous. They include the following:

  • Sedatives
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anxiolytics

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How Do Restraints Harm Patients?

Not only do restraints pose an ethical problem, but they simply don’t work and aren’t medically necessary. In fact, restraints could increase a patient’s risk for harm—especially when used for long periods without supervision, which is often the case. Restraints have psychological and physical repercussions.

Psychological Effects of Restraints

Residents feel helpless when their arms and legs are tied to their beds. They miss out on daily social interaction and could become more aggressive or irritable in the long run, at no fault of their own. Residents often feel trapped or even inferior to their caregivers, who might use restraints to exert power over them. This causes feelings of depression or imprisonment and stifles their healing journey.

Physical Effects of Restraints

Staff members might use restraints to care for a resident with a high fall risk. However, these methods have proven ineffective. Most patients try to escape their restraints and suffer injuries. Further, restraints might leave patients vulnerable to sexual or physical abuse.

In other cases, staff members might restrain a patient for hours and refuse to take them to the bathroom. Patients often soil their beds in these cases, leading to infection and disease. Other reported physical effects include bed sores, immobility, functional loss, and delirium.


Who’s Most at Risk for Being Restrained?

Residents with Dementia or Alzheimer’s often find themselves in restraints the most. This is due to their likelihood of wandering off and potentially walking out of the facility.

So, rather than providing special accommodations and adequate staff to watch over these at-risk patients, staff members utilize physical restraints to keep them from getting out of bed. Staff members might also put restraints on patients with a history of falling or mobility issues.

Residents with behavioral problems or those with other disabilities are often victims of chemical restraints. Staff members might sedate an unstable resident out of convenience if their behavior becomes too much for them to handle.

Are Physical Restraints a Violation of Patient Rights?

While restraints are warranted in certain circumstances, the Colorado Code of Regulations outlines specific guidelines regarding their use. They state that all facilities should have written policies and procedures governing the use of restraints. Furthermore, nursing homes should only use restraints when a physician has medically assessed a patient and believes they require them for safety.

Even when a physician orders restraints, they should never be used for disciplinary purposes, and staff members must abide by the following provisions:

  • A call signal switch should be within a resident’s reach
  • Residents must be monitored every 15 minutes
  • Restraints should be removed every two hours so the resident can drink water, exercise, eat, go to the bathroom, or be repositioned to maintain proper blood circulation.

If not otherwise permitted, restraints could be used if a resident is putting others in immediate danger or undergoing emergency medical treatment. However, a resident can still refuse the use of restraints during emergency medical treatment.

Alternatives to Nursing Home Restraints

 Providing individualized care to each patient is the best way to avoid restraints. That means nursing homes must have an adequate number of staff on duty trained to handle each resident’s needs. Other alternative methods exist as well.

Modifying the Living Space

Making special modifications to a resident’s living space helps prevent falls and other accidents. These modifications include:

  • Lowering patients’ beds
  • Providing walking aids so residents can freely move about
  • Installing shock-absorbing floor covering
  • Keeping rooms and hallways properly lit
  • Providing non-slip floors and footwear

Preventative Measures

Nursing home staff could also address the root cause of a resident’s issue. They could have a high fall risk because of weak hips or poor mobility. Staff members might do the following to avoid the use of restraints:

  • Give residents proper nutrition and keep them hydrated
  • Help residents strengthen their muscles with exercise
  • Ensure each patient gets frequent trips to the restroom
  • Eliminate any unnecessary medications


Who’s At Fault for Misusing Restraints?

Several parties could be blamed for your physical and emotional suffering due to the misuse of restraints, including the following:

  • Staff members – Your or your loved one’s primary caregiver might have ignored protocol for the use of restraints, causing severe injuries.
  • Nursing Home – The nursing home might have hired unqualified workers or not enough workers to satisfy the needs of residents.
  • Nursing Home Management Company – These companies handle the hiring and training of nursing home staff. They could have failed to uphold the nursing home’s safety standards.
  • Nursing Home Chain Entities – You may find that the entities at the top are responsible for your or your loved one’s injuries.


What Can You Recover for Injuries Caused by Restraints?

You or a loved one could have suffered physically and emotionally due to the misuse of restraints, and you must report the abuse immediately. Nursing Home Justice helps you recover everything you could be owed.

Damages You Could Recover

We’ll consider every way you suffered from your nursing home abuse. You could recover both economic and non-economic damages, which might include the following:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Current and future medical bills
  • Long-term care expenses
  • Loss of quality of life

Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

Your loved one might have died from the abuse they endured at the nursing home. Surviving spouses or heirs have a right to pursue a wrongful death claim to get fair compensation. You might recover one or more of the following damages:

  • Loss of financial support the decedent would have provided to the surviving spouse, heirs, or designated beneficiary (e.g., decedent was a rehab patient who was going to return to work)
  • Funeral costs
  • Grief, sorrow, and loss of companionship

Punitive Damages

In extreme circumstances, you could recover punitive damages. These are meant to punish the at-fault party for their reckless behavior.


How Nursing Home Justice Can Help

Nursing Home Justice takes a unique approach to each case and addresses your issues individually. We’ll help you by:

  • Listening To Your Story – You or your loved one has been through a lot. Attorney Mac Hester will personally hear your story to understand your goals and develop a plan moving forward.
  • Thoroughly Investigating Your Case – We’ll assess your injuries and determine their cause. No matter what, we’ll find who’s liable and hold them accountable.
  • Helping You Get Financial Compensation – These traumatizing experiences cause severe injury. We’ll get you the compensation you need to cover every loss.