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Can Nursing Home Staff Restrain or Sedate My Loved One?

Posted on in Nursing Home Abuse

Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a relative in a nursing home, you probably worry about him or her often. You may wonder if your loved one is receiving the compassionate treatment and competent medical attention he or she deserves. Nursing home staff must balance keeping a resident safe and well-cared for with maximizing the resident’s independence and autonomy. Illinois law prohibits the unreasonable physical or chemical restraint of a nursing home resident.  

Physical Restraints Include Anything that Limits a Resident’s Movement

Nursing home residents deserve to have as much freedom as possible. However, safety concerns often prevent staff from giving unlimited autonomy to certain residents – particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. Residents who are not monitored may elope from the facility or become seriously injured by dangers in the facility. Nevertheless, physically restraining residents is seldom an acceptable solution. Physical restraints can include ties, vests, sheets that are very tightly tucked in, or other mechanisms that limit a resident’s movement.

When Can Restraints Be Lawfully Used?

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act describes the specific circumstances under which a resident may be physically restrained. Physical restraints may only be used when absolutely necessary to protect the resident’s safety. Furthermore, restraints may only be used for short periods. A medical professional must order the use of the restraint and document the justification for the restraint in the resident’s medical records. The resident’s guardian must also give consent for the restraint. Under no circumstances may restraints be used for staff convenience or to punish a resident.

Chemical Restraints May Increase the Risk of Death in Elderly Patients

Certain psychiatric medications like antipsychotic medication and benzodiazepines have side effects that make a resident fatigued and docile. Unfortunately, some nursing homes administer these drugs to residents who do not have a medical need for the medication simply because they make the residents more obedient. This is not only unethical, it also places the residents in danger. There is a “black box warning” on many antipsychotic medications that warns that the drug increases the risk of death in individuals with dementia.

Giving sedating medications to patients who do not have the condition that the drug is supposed to treat is a violation of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and other legislation. However, research shows that this practice is not uncommon. In a study released by the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, 20 percent of residents studied were given antipsychotic medications while only 2 percent had a medical condition requiring the medication.

Contact a Cook County Unreasonable Restraints Lawyer

If your loved one has been physically restrained or chemically restrained through the use of medication, contact a Chicago nursing home injury attorney at Schwartz Injury Law to discuss your legal options. You may be able to hold the nursing home accountable and recover damages. Call 312-535-4625 for a free consultation.



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