Patient Restraints and Other Alternatives
What Family Members and Friends Need to Know
What are Restraints?
A restraint is anything that prevents or limits a patient from being able to move their arms, legs or body freely. Some common types of restraints include soft mitts, lap belts or soft wrist restraints. A soft mitt is a large glove that covers the hand. A lap belt is a device that goes over the lap while the patient is sitting in a chair or wheelchair. A soft wrist restraint is a device that is placed on the wrist or ankle with Velcro. It is attached to an immobile object such as the bed.
Why are Restraints Used?
Restraints are used for a variety of reasons. Often they are used for patients that are irrational and not able to cooperate, and are interfering with their care. A soft mitt prevents the patient from being able to grasp things, but they are still able to move their arms. A lap belt may be used to decrease the risk of a fall by stopping the patient from getting up out of a chair. Soft wrist restraints may be used to prevent a patient from pulling at an IV or other tube, or removing a dressing.
When are Restraints Used?
Restraints are only used after all other options have been tried. These include:
• A bed or chair alarm.
• Skin “sleeves” to limit access to IVs and other devices.
• Comfortable room temperature and minimal noise.
• Intentional rounding. This includes using the bathroom, repositioning, and checking on pain control and comfort on a regular basis.
• Encourage family and friends to provide company, distraction and other activities.
• Remind the patient as needed to where they are, and why they are here.
• Provide regular activity, such as sitting up in a chair or walking in the hallway (as able).
• Remove any lines, tubes, and drains that are not needed.
How Can I Support the Patient While Restraints Are in Use?
• Talk to the patient’s nurse. They can explain to you why the restraints were placed, and what needs to happen to have them removed.
• Help orient the patient to their surroundings:
o Who you are
o What day it is
o Where they are
o Why they are restrained
• Offer comfort. This may include holding their hand, talking to them, and/or notifying the nursing staff of any needs.
When Will the Restraints be Removed?
The restraints will be removed as soon as the patient is able to comply with the plan of care. This may be when all of the lines, tubes, and/or drains are removed, or when the patient is able to follow directions.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6698.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 09/19/2012
Copyright © 09/19/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5055
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