Unsafe and Unreasonable Restraints

Louisville, KY Lawyer for Nursing Home Injuries Caused By Unsafe and Unreasonable Restraints

With only certain, narrow exceptions, use of physical restraints and medications to drug nursing home residents (referred to as “chemical restraints”) is strictly prohibited under both federal and Kentucky law. While physical and chemical restraints were historically commonplace under the theory that they prevented residents from harming themselves and others, it is now widely understood that these restraints can be extremely dangerous – often causing both physical and psychological harm.

Yet, despite clear prohibitions under the law, many nursing homes continue to use various forms of physical and chemical restraints. By some estimates, as many as 300,000 residents are subjected to chemical restraints alone each year. Often, use of restraints is the result of inadequately-trained staff members, though in many cases restraints are used as a form of abuse as well. Regardless of the reason you or your loved one has been restrained, restraining is almost never okay, and this means that you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries.

Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes is Illegal

The federal government outlawed nursing homes’ use of physical and chemical restraints in 1987. With the Nursing Home Reform Act, Congress established that nursing home residents, “ha[ve] 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.” This “medical symptoms” exception is extremely narrow and, critically, does not allow for use of restraints as a substitute for medical treatment.

Similarly, Kentucky law provides that, “[a]ll residents shall be free from . . . chemical and physical restraints except in emergencies or except as thoroughly justified in writing by a physician for a specified and limited period of time.”

Examples of Improper Restraints

Improper Physical Restraints

There are numerous types of improper physical restraints. Some of the more common examples include:

  • Hand mitts
  • Vests
  • Straightjackets
  • Hand and ankle cuffs
  • Bars, tables, and trays that cannot be removed

In addition, in some circumstances, even side rails on hospital beds may constitute unsafe or unreasonable restraints. For example, while side rails may be appropriate for ensuring a resident’s safety while being transported from one room to another, if a side rail prevents a resident from getting out of bed (perhaps resulting in bedsores), or if a side rail creates a safety risk for entanglement or strangulation, then use of side rails is inappropriate. When you contact us, we will help you determine if you may have a claim for improper use of a physical restraint.

Improper Chemical Restraints

Chemical restraints include various forms of sedatives and antipsychotic medications that are used not for treatment of a resident’s illness or injury, but rather to calm or quiet the resident without medical necessity. Nursing home staff may also use chemical restraints to sedate residents in order to carry out physical or sexual abuse. Medications used to treat anxiety and aggression in residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are commonly used as chemical restraints.

The Effects of Unsafe and Unreasonable Restraints

Nursing home residents who are improperly restrained often suffer severe physical and emotional injuries. Being drugged or physically restrained against your will can be agonizing, and residents who suffer under improper restraints for weeks, months, and in some cases years, often suffer significant psychological trauma. The effects of improper restraints can include:

  • Bone fractures and bone weakness
  • Loss of muscle tissue (atrophy)
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)
  • Ligature marks
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Incontinence
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Due to the fact that many nursing home residents are already frail or suffering from other medical complications, these conditions can often create life-threatening situations. Tragically, hundreds of nursing home residents die from restraint-related injuries every year. Those who survive often face a long, hard road to recovery.

Contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC about Your Case Today

Located in downtown Louisville, Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC represents victims of nursing home negligence and abuse throughout Kentucky. If you or a loved one has been physically or chemically restrained in a nursing home, we urge you to contact us right away. We can help you put an end to the abuse and ensure that you have the money you need to cover your medical bills and other losses.

Attorney Seth Gladstein provides *free, confidential consultations, and there are no attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Call (800) 991-0474 or contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC online to speak with Seth today.


*Each case is different and the past record is no assurance that we will be successful in reaching a favorable result in any future case. Among many settlements, Gladstein Law Firm has recovered: $1.8 Million settlement for medical malpractice case involving negligent performance of hysterectomy (Christian Circuit Court); $1.75 Million medical malpractice case involving negligent failure to timely diagnose and treat lung cancer (Jefferson Circuit Court); $550,000 settlement for failure to diagnose prostate cancer (pre-litigation settlement); $500,000 settlement for negligent failure to diagnose and treat an impending stroke after brain surgery (Jefferson Circuit Court); and $195,000 settlement for negligent failure to diagnose and treat a potentially life-threatening heart condition (Macon Co., N.C.; served as co-counsel)  Click here to see some of Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC’s successes. Client pays costs only upon recovery.

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