Using chemical restraints may be a sign of nursing home abuse

| Oct 14, 2021 | Elder Abuse

Chemical restraints are medications used to sedate and pacify patients. There are some instances in which caregivers may use them to control a patient when they are unruly or aggressive. 

This practice is fortunately uncommon. If you note that your loved one’s caregivers have instituted this approach, then it may be a sign of abuse. You’ll want to look for a few signs to determine whether that’s the case. 

What are some examples of chemical restraints?

There are several kinds of drugs that may have disorienting or calming effects that could be used, including:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Sedative-hypnotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Benzodiazepines

There are certainly times when using chemical restraints may be warranted, such as if a patient is an immediate threat to themselves or others. However, these medications are often contraindicated due to patients’ ages, preexisting conditions and medical instability.

Should the medical team document the use of a chemical restraint?

There should be solid documentation of chemical restraint use. The medical team should provide a reason for the restraint, any alternatives they tried and the thresholds they’ve set for any further interventions. 

Chemical restraints may require a physician’s order

Something to keep in mind is that nursing homes must usually have a written order from a physician before using chemical restraints on a patient. The only exception is that the staff must use chemical restraints in an emergency, such as if the patient is in immediate danger.

The emergency exception does not apply in cases where the nursing home was told that chemical restraints would be unacceptable for use in the patient. 

Chemical restraint use should be taken seriously. If you believe that they’re being used inappropriately in a nursing home, it’s your right to speak out and seek further information to see if you have a medical malpractice or nursing home abuse claim.


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