The use of restraints in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is controversial. While restraints do serve a purpose in certain circumstances, many experts believe they are overused. If your loved one is being inappropriately restrained, you may have a valid Louisiana nursing home abuse claim.
A physical restraint is described as any item attached to or near a person's body that restricts movement and can't be manipulated or removed without outside assistance. Types of restraints that might be used in a nursing home or long-term care facility include:
- Straps or belts
- Bed rails
- Bedsheets tucked in tightly to restrict movement
- Limb ties
- Wheelchair bars and brakes
- Chairs that tip back
The term chemical restraints is used to refer to sedatives and other medications given without a legitimate medical reason as a form of discipline or convenience for caretakers.
Effects of Restraints
The use of restraints can be associated with complications such as:
- Respiratory problems
- Loss of strength and muscle tone
- Loss of cardiovascular endurance
- Loss of balance
- Severe constipation
Restraints can also cause severe emotional trauma for the person being restrained. Nursing home or long-term care facility residents who have been restrained often report feelings of shame, embarrassment, anxiety, and fear. They may also view the use of restraints as violating their right to dignity and independence.
In some cases, restraints have been linked to an increased risk of accidents. This may include falls, head trauma, entrapment, or strangulation when a resident attempts to escape a restraint in an unsafe manner.
How Restraints Are Linked to Abuse
Restraints may be used inappropriately due to:
- A lack of awareness of the dangers of inappropriate restraint use
- Negative or parental attitudes toward the elderly or disabled
- Ignorance of effective alternatives to restraints such as modifying the resident's environment or routine to lessen the risk of accidental falls
Louisiana's Department of Health & Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services states that restraints may not be used for staff convenience. Convenience is defined as "any action taken by the facility to control a resident's behavior or manage a resident's behavior with a lesser amount of effort by the facility and not in the resident's best interest."
However, if a resident requires emergency care, restraints are allowed for brief periods as necessary for medical treatment to proceed—unless the resident has previously made a valid refusal of the treatment in question. If a resident is not able to make a refusal, a legal surrogate such as a spouse or an adult child can state preferences regarding care.
In the event of unanticipated violent or aggressive behavior, a resident or his legal surrogate does not have the right to refuse the use of restraints. Restraints are allowed as a measure of last resort to protect the safety of the resident, caretakers, or others at the facility, as long as the restraint usage does not extend beyond the immediate behavioral episode.
Filing an Abuse Claim
Problems with the care your loved one is receiving should first be addressed with the facility administration. However, if you don’t believe the administration is responsive to your concerns, you should consult an attorney to learn more about filing a nursing home abuse claim.
A nursing home abuse claim is a type of civil legal action seeking monetary compensation for medical expenses related to the abuse and the physical and emotional pain and suffering the resident experienced. Punitive damages may be available in some circumstances, as well.
Louisiana's statute of limitations allows you one year to file a nursing home abuse claim. However, since supporting evidence may become more difficult as time passes, it's recommended that you take immediate action.
Because nursing home abuse cases can be quite complex, retaining the services of an experienced attorney is the best way to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's dedicated legal team.