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Facts About Use of Physical Restraints in California


When someone with a mental or emotional disorder is having an outburst, the priority goal is to prevent them from hurting themselves and others. In some assisted living settings, providers accomplish this goal through use of physical restraints. However, California regulations on restraints and seclusion are extremely restrictive regarding the situations they may be employed, who may implement these devices, how long they may be in place, and many other factors.

Unfortunately, some assisted living facilities do not always comply with these laws, causing severe harm to the resident. Plus, researchers have found that use of physical restraints does not significantly reduce the risk of self-injury, and many are not safe in any situation. If you have concerns about mistreatment, consult with an Oakland abuse and neglect attorney right away. Some facts on physical restraints and liability are also helpful.

Types of Physical Restraints: You are probably familiar with some of the restraints used in health care settings, such as straps on gurneys and rails on beds. Some other devices that constitute physical restraints include:

  • Lap belts or trays on wheelchairs that prevent rising;
  • Straps on wrists or ankles;
  • Vests;
  • Mitts on the hands; and,
  • Sheets that are tucked in too tightly.

Even something you might not consider as a restraint could serve as one, such as pushing a resident in a wheelchair into a tight corner where they cannot maneuver out.

 Improper Use of Physical Restraints: The California regulations are very clear on what acts are illegal, and physical restraints can never be used as a form of discipline or punishment. However, assisted living facilities tend to rely on them to make things easier on staff, usually because they are understaffed.

 Injuries to Residents: Physical injuries to residents are evident, such as ligature marks, bruising, cuts, and abrasions. These injuries are extremely susceptible to infection, and being restrained in the same position can also cause bedsores. Other physical effects of restraints include loss of muscle tone, bone density loss, and incontinence.

The emotional implications are just as devastating for a resident, who feels agitated, distressed, and powerless while restrained. In the aftermath, a person may suffer depression, anxiety, and angry outbursts.

Abuse v. Neglect: Improper use of physical restraints could constitute abuse or neglect in different scenarios. For instance, abuse might be intentionally pulling straps too tight on wrists and ankles. Carelessly leaving a patient in a wheelchair lap belt too long is neglect. Still, both are unlawful and actionable. A resident, often through loved ones, can bring a claim against the assisted living facility that caused injuries through illegal use of restraints.

Contact Our Oakland Abuse and Neglect Lawyer to Learn About Remedies

You may qualify to recover damages for improper use of physical restraints, including medical costs, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. For more information about these claims, please contact Venardi Zurada, LLP at our offices in Oakland or Walnut Creek, CA. We can schedule a no-cost case review with a knowledgeable attorney who can explain how abuse and neglect cases work.


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