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The psychological impact of restraint use in nursing homes

On Behalf of | May 20, 2022 | Nursing Home Injury

A nursing home staff will often rely on restraints to prevent an elderly resident from wandering, falling or unintentionally injuring themselves. These restraints can either be physical such as straps and wheelchair locks or chemical such as sedatives and psychotropic drugs. In either case, the nursing home staff must exercise caution as restraints can injure patients.

Emotional damage

Restraints can lock an individual in one position for hours at a time. Based on this, they can feel isolated from their peers and experience a distinct lack of control over their own lives. The repeated use of restraints could lead to severe emotional damage in the form of anxiety, depression, shame and loss of dignity. These feelings of imprisonment can lead to a loss of freedom, a loss of identity and mistrust of the staff members. It is important to remember that restraints should never be used as a punitive measure – but always to prevent self-harm or the chance of injuries. The staff must ensure they use the restraints properly under the right circumstances.

Physical damage

Straps can be too tight, and guardrails can lock a patient in the same position for hours at a time. These physical restrains can cause bodily harm. Whether it leads to bed sores due to immobility or lacerations where the bonds rub against the skin, an elderly nursing home resident might struggle with cuts, bruising, infections and torn ligaments. Additionally, these can become worsening conditions as infections spread to muscle groups, the blood stream and internal organs.

The improper use of restraints can lead to serious harm in elderly nursing home residents. Unfortunately, even a correctly utilized restraint can cause unseen emotional trauma. The nursing home staff must always carefully monitor their residents to ensure they do not suffer injury, unnecessary pain or a worsening condition while under the facility’s care. After a physical injury or psychological trauma, it is crucial that caring loved ones speak up for those who might be unwilling or unable to do so.


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