I think my mother is being improperly restrained at the nursing home where she lives, but the staff says it’s necessary. How can I tell what’s right?

By federal law, a nursing home resident may not be restrained unless there is a valid medical reason for doing so. This means a resident may not be restrained simply for the convenience of nursing home staff members charged with caring for them.

Nursing home residents’ rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. It says nursing home resident have a right to refuse and be free from physical and chemical (medication) restraints. Nursing homes are to care for residents in a way that maintains or enhances their quality of life and ensure that their health or well-being does not decline unless it is caused by unavoidable medical reasons. Multiple studies have concluded that restraint use does not enhance quality of life.

A report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services(CMS), which regulates care provided by most nursing homes in our country, says research has indicated that physical restraints can cause harm such as strangulation, loss of muscle tone, decreased bone density (with greater susceptibility for fractures), pressure ulcers (bed sores), decreased mobility, depression, agitation, loss of dignity, incontinence, constipation, and in some cases, death.

A nursing home should have documented medical evidence that any method used to restrain a resident is necessary. Residents who must be restrained for medical reasons must be released from restraints and exercised at least every two hours.

If the nursing home cannot provide clear medical evidence of why your family member needs to be restrained, you should be concerned and make it clear you do not want your loved one placed in restraints. We suggest you contact Hardison & Cochran to discuss this matter further if the nursing home does not satisfy your concerns.