Compassionate Legal Support When You Need It Most
Compassionate Legal Support When You Need It Most

The psychological effects of physical restraints on the elderly

Nursing home negligence can mean countless things from simple inattention to intentionally causing harm. A negligent nursing home staff can be tied to medication errors, dehydration, injuries during transport and bed sores. Unfortunately, the use of restraints can also lead to injuries – both physically and mentally.

There are several scenarios in a nursing home setting where limiting an elderly resident’s freedom of movement is a necessary factor in preserving their safety. Unfortunately, the use of restraints can lead to obvious physical injuries – lacerations, torn flesh, broken bones, ligament damage – as well as hidden psychological damage. While the former has been studied voluminously, the empirical evidence of the latter is only starting to build up.

While some residents report that certain restraints, such as bedside rails, can make them feel safe and secure, the experience is generally not a positive one. Commonly, these methods are more traumatic than therapeutic. Elderly residents can feel:

  • Shame
  • Loss of dignity and self-respect
  • Loss of identity
  • Anxiety and aggression
  • Social isolation
  • Disillusionment

Essentially, these individuals equate the loss of freedom of movement with imprisonment. They can worry about the threat of attack in such a vulnerable state and live at a level of hyper-vigilance.

Examples of physical restraints can include the use of vests, straps, belts, limb ties, wheelchair bars, wheelchair brakes, chairs that tip backward, tucking in sheets too tightly and bedside rails. Injuries related to physical restraints can run the gamut from bruises and increased agitation to bed sores and respiratory complications.

If you worry that your elderly loved one has suffered injuries at the hands of a negligent or abusive nursing home staff, it is important to act quickly. Not only can you actively work to correct the devastating situation, but you can recover monetary compensation from those responsible.