Liability for Improper Use of Restraints in Oregon Nursing Homes

Taking care of our elderly and disabled population can be a complicated undertaking because needs can vary so greatly depending on the case. With some individuals, it is possible for family members, friends, or even paid caregivers to care for them in a family setting. However, sometimes home care is not an option. The person needing care may have special needs that cannot be met at home, or the family may not have the skills and other resources needed to provide effective care. In these situations, families may turn to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as options.

But one thing is certain - we expect our loved ones to be cared for within the standards set by law, and to be treated ethically and with dignity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen. One violation that occurs far too often is the improper use of restraints. In this article, we’ll consider liability for such behavior.

The Elderly Population Continues to Grow

The importance of addressing elder abuse issues is critical because America’s elderly population continues to grow. In 2010, 40.3 million Americans (13 percent) were age 65 or older. By 2012, this number had increased to 43.1 million. By 2050, this segment of the population is predicted to total 83.7 million.

What are Physical Restraints?

“Physical restraint” can be defined in different ways, but it generally refers to any method or device that prevents a person from moving freely. Some things are obvious, such as a lap belt. Other examples are less obvious, such as sheets being tucked in tightly enough around a person that he or she is restrained. Other examples include the following:

  • Belts 
  • Bed rails
  • Trays
  • Vests
  • Wheelchair brakes

Are Physical Restraints Always Inappropriate?

Absolutely not. Restraints are sometimes necessary to protect elderly or disabled people from injuring themselves. Thus, using bed rails at times or a lap belt in a wheelchair may be completely appropriate.

However, physical restraints are sometimes used when they are not needed, simply to make life simpler for an employee or some other inappropriate reason. This can result in both physical and emotional injury to the person being restrained. The National Center on Elder Abuse defines inappropriate physical restraint as a form of physical abuse.

Injury Resulting from Physical Restraint

Fortunately, over time the use of physical restraints has decreased. However, emotional and physical injuries still occur when physical restraints are used unnecessarily or improperly.

Physical restraints can cause the following:

  • Bruising
  • Lacerations
  • Malnutrition
  • Humiliation
  • Loss of dignity
  • Increased likelihood of bedsores
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Pain
  • Decreased mobility
  • Inability to protect or defend oneself
  • Respiratory issues
  • Increased possibility of strangulation
  • Bone fractures
  • Head trauma

Liability for Improper Use of Restraints

Nursing homes and their employees are required to act reasonably at all times. Under the law, if a nursing home employee fails to meet the applicable standard of care and causes injury, the employee and nursing home can be held accountable for their negligence. Similarly, legal remedies exist when employees intentionally cause harm. Improper use of physical restraints can fit into these categories and result in liability.

Call with Questions

Few things are as frustrating as learning that an elderly or disabled person has been mistreated. Such people are often vulnerable and unable to care for or defend themselves. They rely upon caregivers to act appropriately and to meet the appropriate standards of care. When these standards aren’t upheld, it’s imperative that the law holds wrongdoers accountable for their actions so that such wrongdoing can be curbed or eliminated.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been mistreated in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, we know you will have questions about your rights and how to proceed. The experienced Oregon nursing home abuse lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer those questions. Give us a call today.


Call us at 1.877.928.9147 For A Free Consultation!

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