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Are physical restraints ever okay in Wisconsin nursing homes?

Restraints are never permitted as discipline, punishment, or for the convenience of the staff.It is a hard to thing to see. A person you love is being physically restrained. The nursing home staff tell you that it is to keep her safe, but you are worried about her physical and emotional wellbeing.

You Are Right to Be Worried

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recognizes that physical restraints can be dangerous for nursing home residents. The agency has identified at least 15 different dangers associated with physical restraints which include falls, infections, and death.

Thus, physical restraints may only be used in Wisconsin nursing homes if one of the following is true:

  • The restraint is necessary to treat the resident’s medical symptom or condition.
  • The restraint is necessary to help the resident achieve the highest level of functioning or wellbeing.

Restraints are never permitted as discipline, punishment, or for the convenience of the staff. Additionally, in the absence of an emergency a physical restraint should only be used after other, less restrictive interventions have been tried.

How to Know If a Restraint Is Right for Your Loved One

The nursing home should complete an assessment before using physical restraints on your loved one. The assessment should include:

  • Gathering as much information as possible about the resident’s condition and the specific reason a restraint is being considered.
  • Identifying all methods other than restraints that could be used.
  • Evaluating what has been done in the past and the pros and cons of each option.
  • Choosing the method that best meets the resident’s needs.

If a restraint is considered necessary, the least restrictive restraint should be used for as short a time as possible.

You may have questions about the specific restraints that are being used, or considered, for your loved one. Do not hesitate to ask questions and demand answers about the use of physical restraints. Your questions could benefit your loved one and save her from significant physical and emotional harm.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham