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Resident’s Restraint and Abuse Raises Important Nursing Home Safety Issues

In Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, a former nursing home aide will go to trial over accusations that several months ago the staffer, who was a certified nursing assistant, assaulted one of the Gardens of Green Ridge nursing home residents. The allegations include that the young nursing assistant physically restrained the 76-year old female resident by holding the resident’s room door closed to keep her trapped inside the room. In addition to this particular restraint, the nursing home aide has also been accused of physically assaulting the patient by dragging her around by her wrists and arms, which resulted in bruising in those areas as well as on her shoulders.

It has been stated that the nursing home has cameras that have captured the alleged abuse and physical restraint, and that witnesses testified that they heard the resident hit the aide, and that the resident yelled at the aide to not touch her. However, the accused’s defense attorney indicated that the aide was simply following orders from a superior to keep the patient in line because she was agitated. Notably, the patient suffered from dementia. As the trial approaches, the one good piece of news is that the patient has been moved to a different nursing home, and is reportedly doing all right.

This is yet again another unfortunate incident in which a nursing home staffer has been accused of abusing and restraining a patient. This case raises a number of issues. One is the importance of camera evidence in showing what happened and what did not happen when there are allegations of abuse or neglect. While we can only rely on pre-trial court filings so far in this particular case, it appears that at trial the camera footage could be helpful in showing what happened. Furthermore there is the importance of witnesses, which can provide some testimony as to what they may have heard or seen.

The Role of Dementia

Additionally, there is also the significant point that the patient victim in this case suffered from dementia. Nursing home and long-term care residents are often vulnerable to begin with because they suffer from physical debilitations, and even their old age altogether makes them subject to abuse and neglect at the hands of caretakers because the patients can do very little about it unless they are able to make a report or tell a family member. Yet this is not so simple because they are often scared of retaliation from the nursing home staff, or may not be believed because of their infirmities. Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s face this tremendous hurdle in particular because they may not be able to accurately convey the abuse or neglect from which they suffer. And because they are easily confused or not as easily believed, nursing home staff may be more prone to take advantage of them or abuse them knowing there will probably be little to no disciplinary consequences.

Lastly, this is of course another disturbing set of allegations of abuse as well as restraint. While patients, including dementia patients, experience periods of agitation and sometimes violence, there is the question of what means of restraining them are acceptable. The nursing home community has historically had an issue with using chemical restraints that can sedate yet still harm the patient, although the rate of usage has declined somewhat. It may be necessary to physically hold down a patient, yet one must question how dragging and locking up a woman in her 70s is all that necessary to accomplish that. Ultimately, there may be a need for new techniques and better training in how to deal with these matters as a member of a nursing home staff.

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