Should Physical Restraints be used in an Acute Geriatric Ward?
Svetlana Barazovski, Arnold Rosin
Geriatric Dept., Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem
A prospective study was carried out in an acute geriatric ward to determine the incidence of the use of physical restraints, the reasons for using them and the consequences. Over a period of 8 months an independent observer documented all cases in which a restraint was used and followed them until it was removed. A questionnaire was submitted to the nurses as to why they applied the restraints. 16% of patients had some form of restraint applied, in 2/3 of them for up to half of their stay in the ward. In over 90% of those restrained, functional (Barthel) and cognitive (mini-mental) scores were between 0-5. In unrestrained patients, the functional score was 0-5 in 79% and the cognitive score 0-5 in 72%. The main reason for applying restraints, usually sheets or body binders, was to prevent the patient from falling out of, or slipping from chairs, rather than to stop them from rising out of them. Other important reasons, which overlapped, were to prevent the patient from interfering with nasogastric tubes, catheters, and IV cannulas, each in 1/3 of the group. Restraints were discarded when deterioration did not allow the patient to sit out of bed, to decrease agitation, to allow enteral or parenteral treatment, and in 12%, when there was supervision by the family. Of 33 families interviewed, none opposed application of restraints, and most left the decision to the responsible ward staff. We conclude that restraints cannot be avoided in some acutely ill, old patients with severe physical and mental dysfunction. However, ways should be sought to minimize their use, as recommended in the literature, by demanding from the staff a specific reason, signed agreement of a physician, close follow-up, and favorable environmental conditions such as suitable chairs, occupational activity, and staff cooperation in removing the restraints.