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Involuntary Physical Restraints in Illinois Nursing Homes: What You Need to Know

Your loved one needed more care than you could safely provide for him at home. Accordingly, he and your family decided that your loved one would be safer in a nursing home. Together, you chose the home while considering your loved one’s unique needs and how he wanted to live his remaining years with dignity.

Accordingly, you were justifiably horrified to learn that your loved one had been seriously injured by a physical restraint in the nursing home. You were left with many questions. Whether your loved one suffered bruises, respiratory problems, head trauma, strangulation, or another complications—he, you, and your family deserve answers.

What Does Illinois Law Say About the Use of Physical Restraints in Nursing Homes?

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act provides specific guidelines about the use of physical restraints in Illinois nursing homes. A physical restraint is defined as “any manual method or physical or mechanical device, material, or equipment attached or adjacent to a resident's body that the resident cannot remove easily and restricts freedom of movement or normal access to one's body.” According to Section 2-106:

  • Restraints may not be used to punish a resident.
  • Restraints may not be used for the convenience of nursing home personnel.
  • Restraints may only be used if they are ordered by a physician who documents the need for the restraint in the resident’s record.
  • Restraints may only be used with the consent of the resident or his authorized representative.
  • Restraints may only be used if they are the least restrictive means to attain or maintain the resident’s highest practicable physical, mental, or psychosocial well-being, including brief periods of time to provide necessary life-saving treatments.
  • A restraint may be used only after consultation with appropriate health professionals, such as occupational or physical therapists, and a trial of less restrictive measures has led to the determination that the use of those less restrictive measures would not attain or maintain the resident's highest practicable physical, mental, or psychosocial well-being.
  • A restraint may be applied only by a person trained in the application of the particular type of restraint.
  • Whenever a period of use of a restraint is initiated, the resident shall be advised of his or her right to have a person or organization of his or her choosing, including the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, be notified of the use of the restraint. If the resident so chooses, the facility shall make the notification within 24 hours. The resident should then be contacted by the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission.
  • Whenever a restraint is used on a resident whose primary mode of communication is sign language, the resident shall be permitted to have his or her hands free from restraint for brief periods each hour, except when this freedom may result in physical harm to the resident or others.

These provisions are intended to protect the rights of all Illinois nursing home residents.

How Can I Help My Loved One If He Is Restrained?

You’ve already taken the first step toward helping your loved one. You have identified the problem. Now you need to focus on getting your loved one the medical care that he needs, making sure he has a safe place to live, and holding the nursing home accountable for its actions. With your help, your loved one may be able to recover and live the rest of his life with the dignity and respect that he deserves.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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