Nursing Home Physical Chemical restraints, nursing home physical restraints, nursing home chemical restraints, nursing home restraint attorney

Physical & Chemical Restraints

Nursing Home Injury and Death Attorneys

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Federal law prohibits the use of both physical and chemical restraints in nursing homes. When these tactics are used they are a form of discipline and convenience. Staff in nursing homes use them to control, sedate or pacify patients. However, over 30 years after the passage of The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, methods of restraint still persist. It is important that families and friends of nursing home residents guard their loved ones against physical or chemical restraints. If you have witnessed or suspect your loved one was a victim of nursing home physical restraints or nursing home chemical restraints contact The Carlson Law Firm. We have an expert nursing home restraint attorney ready to assist you.

With more than 40 years of experience protecting the rights of our country’s most vulnerable populations, our firm is ready to help you on your legal journey. If you want real justice for your loved one who suffered nursing home abuse, contact The Carlson Law Firm. Our firm has something other firms don’t. Ernest Tosh. Tosh is a leading nursing home restraint attorney who only takes on nursing home abuse cases. He has taken more than 150 cases to trial and recovered millions of dollars for the vulnerable elderly population and their families. If you want real accountability, contact our expert nursing home restraint attorney today.

What is a Nursing Home Restraint?

In some instances, nursing home staff have viewed restraints as necessary. They believe that restraints are necessary to subdue an aggressive or difficult resident. Restraints can be either chemical (i.e., the medication designed to make the resident passive) or physical. Regardless of the type of restraint sought, a doctor must order the restraint. Because of this, restraints used without a physician’s order are illegal. Fortunately, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 gave all nursing home residents the right to be free from restraints when the restraints are used for disciplinary purposes or for the convenience of the nursing home corporation.

Chemical vs Physical Restraints

Chemical restraints are usually antipsychotic drugs that are used by the nursing home to control individuals who suffer from dementia or anxiety. For a nursing home focused primarily on reducing its budget and operating on minimal staff, chemically restrained residents are easier to control and require less care than active residents. In fact, staffing shortages are a leading culprit in explaining why some nursing homes choose to restrain residents.

A physical restraint is usually a device placed next to or around a resident to limit or eliminate movement by the resident. One of the most common examples of a physical restraint is the side rail on the bed. Designed to prevent a resident from falling out of bed, side rails can sometimes do more harm than good. Some of the most common injuries with side rails are falls when an unmonitored resident attempts to crawl over the side rail or asphyxiation when a resident becomes entrapped between the mattress and the side rail. Nursing homes should evaluate residents for these known dangers and supervise accordingly. When they choose not to, the resident is at great risk for serious injury or death.

Nursing Home Physical Restraints

Since the passage of The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, nursing homes have started reducing their use of physical restraints. However, the act of using restraints remains a prominent source of nursing home abuse. In some cases, this has more to do with the culture of the nursing home than residents behaving in such a way that requires the use restraints. Regardless, the facts remain that physical restraints are harmful to nursing home residents.

Patients can endure nursing home physical restraints in a number of ways. The restraints make it difficult or impossible to move and can sometimes make nursing homes feel stressed, agitated or powerless. Examples of physical restraints include:

  • Wheelchair belts
  • Arm restraints
  • Lap trays
  • Hand mitts
  • Leg restraints
  • Vests or ties
  • Bed Rails
  • Hooks and loop fasteners on clothing

Basically, any item or act that was done to intentionally used to physically restrain a nursing home resident’s movement. For example, positioning a patient’s wheelchair in such way that it restricts the patient from backing up or moving is a form of physical restraint. These kinds of acts of nursing home abuse are not only reprehensible, but they violate federal law. Contact The Carlson Law Firm today to speak with an expert nursing home restraint attorney.

Nursing Home Physical Restraints Injuries

Any kind of visible action or method that prohibits an individual’s movement in some way is a physical restraint. Nursing home physical restraints commonly include wrist and ankle restraints, hand mitts, bed rails and vests tied to beds or chairs. But patients can injure them in a number of ways from physical restraints, including: 

  • Strangulation, or restricted breathing
  • Reduced bone mass
  • Stiffness
  • Incontinence
  • Cuts and bruising (can lead to infections)
  • Loss of dignity
  • Depression

Because of these types of injuries and several others, federal law prohibits nursing home physical restraints in the following situations:

  • To punish or discipline a patient;
  • make patient care more convenient;
  • substitute for other activities;
  • in place of treatment; or
  • to permanently control a patient.

Nursing Home Chemical Restraints

Administering a drug to get a patient to act a certain way is a form of nursing home abuse. Additionally, the types of drugs used in nursing home chemical restraints are incredibly strong drugs. In general, any type of chemical restraint is dangerous. In fact, the use of powerful mind-altering drugs has clear risks on a person’s physical and mental health. This is why psychotropic drugs should only be used when necessary. Additionally, federal law states that chemical restraints may only be used under doctor’s orders. However, a nursing home resident or a representative of the resident has the right to refuse chemical restraint. Even when the restraint is recommended by a physician.

Importantly, we must distinguish that while psychotropic drugs have their place in society, nursing home chemical restraints do not. Because elderly residents can suffer from several ailments and are usually already taking medication, there are increased risks giving them something they aren’t prescribed. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than 15,000 nursing home patients die every year from the improper or unnecessary use of antipsychotic medication.

The Most Common Types of Chemical Restraint

The most common types of nursing home chemical restraints are drugs often used to treat mental illness. These drugs affect behavior, mood, thinking and sensation. Mind-altering drugs can quickly relax or sedate a resident who behaves in an aggressive manner is difficult to manage. The drugs include:


Antipsychotics are the most commonly used chemical restraint. Common antipsychotic nursing home chemical restraints include; droperidol, haloperidol, risperidone and olanzapine. While there are several classes of antipsychotics that staff use for the purposes of nursing home chemical restraints, they typically break down into three categories:

  1. Atypical antipsychotics
  2. Typical antipsychotics
  3. Classic antipsychotics

Dissociative Anesthetics

Dissociative Anesthetics are a type of hallucinogen. These drugs work by distorting sight and sound. They also dissociate and detach individuals from their self and environment. A patient will experience blocked or reduced brain signals between the conscious mind and another part of the brain.


This class of drugs has a variety of uses. Benzodiazepines are useful for alleviating conditions such as anxiety, seizure, disorder, muscle tension, panic attacks and insomnia. These drugs are good for controlling aggressive behavior and sedation. Common types include lorazepam and midazolam.

Chemical Restraint Injuries in Nursing Homes

As stated above, psychoactive drugs are the most common types of chemical restraints given. Much like nursing home physical restraints, staff may use chemical restraint drugs on residents that the staff deems uncooperative or restless. Using these types of drugs in such an unethical manner can have devastating consequences. Because of chemical restraints, the patient may do any of the following:

  • Become confused
  • Become disoriented
  • Be unable to carry out the tasks of daily living
  • Become agitated
  • Experience an overall decrease in quality of life

Understaffing’s Effects on Nursing Home Restraints

While understaffing is a serious problem for many nursing homes across the country, it is not an excuse to deprive nursing home residents of their quality of life. With more than 90 percent of nursing homes dealing with understaffing, we cannot accept it as an excuse for poor treatment of our elderly population.

It is important to note that understaffing leads to a less attentive staff for nursing home residents. This means that when a home is short on staff, restraining residents is more likely. Unfortunately, understaffing is the main underlying causes of elder abuse and neglect. Nearly half of nurses report missing changes in a patient’s condition because their workloads are excessive. Consequently, nurses in understaffed facilities don’t have time to pay attention to detail which can lead to nursing home.

Because of understaffing and high turnover, staff in nursing home facilities are exhausted after working long hours. Nurses and staff members are pushed to work quickly and for as long as possible. Overworking and stress can lead to a staff taking frustrations out on nursing home residents. This can lead to nursing home physical restrains, as well as nursing home chemical restraints.

Finally, if you notice that your elderly loved one is suffering because of understaffing, you can take action. Fortunately, the law allows you to hold the nursing home responsible for the abuses and neglect that occurs as a result of understaffing. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to speak with a nursing home restraint attorney about your loved one’s condition.

How The Carlson Law Firm’s Nursing Home Restraint Attorney Can Help

The Carlson Law Firm has a team of attorneys, investigators and nurses ready to help your loved ones suffering nursing home abuse. Our expert nursing home restraint attorney can help you get the justice your loved one deserves. We have recovered millions of dollars for victims of nursing home physical restraints and nursing home chemical restraints.

If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse you should take action quickly and contact us to set up a free consultation with a nursing home restraint attorney. Someone from our team is available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.