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Posted: April 01, 2008

Physical Restraints Used Much Less in US Nursing Homes

Physical tie-down restraints, commonly used on nursing home residents for decades, are quickly falling out of favor as home operators turn to more humane means of assuring the bed safety of their long-term patients, according to a report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

In fact, AHRQ said the use of physical restraints in such facilities has dropped by 40% in recent years, with about 5.9% of 1.5 million long-term residents physically restrained repeatedly in 2006. That compares with 9.7% in 2002.

The federal agency cited California, Arkansas and Oklahoma as the states where restraints were most frequently used in 2006. They were used least in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Maine.

Restraints were used repeatedly on 13.4% of all residents in California, 13.2% in Arkansas and 11.5% in Oklahoma. In Nebraska, they were used on 1.3% of the nursing home population, while they were used 2% of the time in Iowa, Kansas and Maine.

Critics of physical restraints have long accused nursing facilities of turning to tie-downs for convenience sake, rather than patient comfort and safety. They have cited restraints as causing bed sores and pressure sores, loss of patient strength and even depression among these long-term residents.

A consumer program called Advancing Excellence in America's Nursing Homes has set a goal of reducing the number of nursing home residents physically restrained by 30,000 by September 2008.

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