Use of Nursing Home Restraints Has Declined

A report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that the use of restraints in nursing homes has declined 40 percent in recent years. Use of restraints was common in many nursing homes until a 1987 federal law made it illegal to use restraints to discipline or as a matter of convenience. In 2006, 5.9 percent of patients were repeatedly physically restrained compared to 9.7 in 2002.

The findings are part of a report comparing states on health issues. The states with the highest percentage of restraint use were California, Arkansas, and Oklahoma while Nebraska, and Iowa, Kansas, and Maine had the lowest. Under the law, restraints can be used for a medical reason, such as preventing a patient from tearing out an IV. Research has shown that restraints can negatively affect nursing home residents’ mental and physical health, causing depression, pressure sores, and loss of strength, among other things.

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