A physical restraint is any type of device that attaches to a patient’s body and prevents them from moving in some way.
There are many types of physical restraints. For example, they may include:
- Trays and belts that hold people into wheelchairs
- Mitts that cover people’s hands
- Soft cuffs that tie a person’s hands and/or feet to bed railings
Actions can also be physical restraints. For example, physical restraints include:
- Holding a person down
- Not allowing a person to get out of bed
- Locking a wheelchair so a person cannot move
Physical restraints should be the last option, used only when every other option has failed, and restraints are necessary to protect an resident or others around that resident. People can be injured, even killed, in physical restraints; they are dangerous to staff; and they are stressful to residents and staff alike.
Once a resident is restrained, the staff have a responsibility to do frequent health and safety checks, and take all necessary steps to prevent injuries like bedsores from developing.
There are state and federal laws about when physical restraints may be used. For example, it is illegal to use physical restraint as a punishment; as a permanent form of control; to make it easier to care for a patient; or in place of treatment.
Use of physical restraints varies widely in nursing homes – from 4% to 85%, according to one study.
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Hofmann, Hedi; Schorro, Ewald; et al. 2015. “Use of physical restraints in nursing homes: A multicenter cross-sectional study.” BMC Geriatrics 15. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12877-015-0125-x
Gastmans, C., and Milisen, K. 2006. “Use of physical restraint in nursing homes: Clinical-ethical considerations.” Journal of Medical Ethics 32(3):148-152. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jme.2005.012708