Elderly Physical Restraint Injury Lawyer

Compassionate Elder Abuse Lawyer for Patients in Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities in Tustin, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana & Nearby Areas in Southern California.

Physical Restraints for the Elderly

Most of us think physical restraints are reserved for people under arrest, or mental patients who want to harm themselves or others. However, nursing homes can and do use restraints when they want to restrict the movements of a “troubled” patient.

Can nursing homes use physical restraints whenever they like?


There are strict “dos” and “do nots” when it comes to nursing homes using physical or chemical restraints. California law specifies: “Physical restraints for behavior control shall only be used on the signed order of a physician … except in an emergency which threatens to bring immediate injury to patient or others.”

In California, physical restraint use is much higher than in the rest of the nation – an estimated 50% higher. Around 11.7% of nursing home residents in California were restrained the last time data was taken, compared to the rest of the nation’s 6%. Despite a push by the state and patient care advocates, many nursing home residents still suffer the indignity of unlawful restraint.

Why Would Physical Restraints Be Required?

Physical restraints are items or equipment designed to confine or prevent a person from being able to move about freely. In California skilled nursing facilities, they are restricted to “cloth vests, soft ties, soft cloth mittens, seat belts, and trays with spring release devices.” They cannot have locking mechanisms. Their use must be documented in the patient’s file, along with the behavior leading up to the restraint, as well as a set time limit for the restraint.

Why would they ever be used? Nursing homes often make the following excuses to justify the implementation of physical restraints:

  • To prevent falls
  • To avoid disruption or interference with medical treatment
  • To manage staffing inadequacies (since there were not enough caregivers, patients were restrained)
  • To contain and control patients whose memories are failing

Restraints Cause Harm to Patients

Restraints alone are responsible for significant injuries and conditions in the elderly – physical as well as psychological harm. Imagine being unclear about where you are or how you got there and wanting to return home, only to discover you are essentially bound and shackled. Would you not fight to free yourself even if it meant harming yourself? Can you expect anyone else would do less? Of course not.

Risks of physical restraints include:

  • Muscular atrophy
  • Bruising and injuries from attempting to escape
  • Bacterial infections
  • Bedsores
  • Psychological and behavioral implications
  • Social isolation
  • Pain and discomfort

Avoiding the Use of Physical Restraints

It is indeed possible to avoid the use of physical restraints or, at a minimum, to reduce the frequency with which they are used.

  1. First, it is essential that the patient’s family have a clear understanding on how and when restraints may be used. There needs to be a clear directive on the part of the facility and the family as to when these extreme measures can be applied.
  2. Second, other options should be considered. Cognitively impaired individuals who pose a risk to their own medical care may require additional support and specialized therapy rather than bodily constraints.
  3. Third, there are other ways of maintaining the safety and security of elderly patients rather than tying them down: maintaining adequate staff, empowering patients to go where they please, making beds more comfortable and adjustable, monitoring the patient’s day-to-day desires, and providing alternative treatments when dementia or Alzheimer’s is to blame for restlessness and confusion.

If your elderly family member was injured or had an illness develop or worsen because of the use of physical restraints, please contact Siegel Law at 562-645-4145 to find out about your senior’s legal rights. Compensation may be available.

Call Travis and his team at (562) 645-4145 or send us an email for a free consultation.

Travis and his team made a very sad, emotional and stressful time for our family, a little easier. Their compassion for our family and what we were going through was exceptional. It was clear to me that what they do for families/clients is much more than a job.

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