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Can a nursing home in Pennsylvania use restraints on a resident?

There is a troubling problem that is occurring across Pennsylvania nursing homes that is rarely discussed and that needs to be acknowledged and addressed -- that of falls and the use of restraints to prevent them. Nursing home residents who suffer a fall often times sustain serious injuries that could result in a permanent disability, which usually translates directly into a diminished quality of life.

One method that is sometimes used to help prevent falls is to effectively restrain those individuals who are prone to falls. This method has come under increasing scrutiny, because it may be used by nursing home staff without reason, and may cause a resident more harm.

In Pennsylvania, regulations have been put in place to regulate what are acceptable and unacceptable forms of restraint. According to these regulations, restraints cannot be used as an alternative to staff effort, and locked restraints are expressly prohibited. A written signed and dated physician's order specifically noting the type of restraint is required for a nursing home to use a restraint on a resident. A restraint can be a manual device or chemical.

The physician who issues the order must state the reasons for ordering the use of restraint. The order must be reviewed to account for the continuing care of the resident. Furthermore, at least once a month but preferably sooner, the use of any restraints must be reevaluated by an interdisciplinary team to verify that it is still needed.

If physical restraints are to be used, they have to be disengaged for a minimum of ten minutes every couple of hours of use so that the resident gets a chance to move around. Families that are concerned by the use of restraints and harm they may be causing a loved one may want to consult with an attorney to get more information.

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