• Rationale and Comments

    Persons with delirium may display behaviors that risk injury or interference with treatment. There is little evidence to support the effectiveness of physical restraints in these situations. Physical restraints can lead to serious injury or death and may worsen agitation and delirium. Effective alternatives include strategies to prevent and treat delirium, identification and management of conditions causing patient discomfort, environmental modifications to promote orientation and effective sleep-wake cycles, frequent family contact, and supportive interaction with staff. Nursing educational initiatives and innovative models of practice have been shown to be effective in implementing a restraint-free approach to patients with delirium. This approach includes continuous observation; trying reorientation once, and if not effective, not continuing; observing behavior to obtain clues about patients’ needs; discontinuing and/or hiding unnecessary medical monitoring devices or IVs; and avoiding short-term memory questions to limit patient agitation. Pharmacological interventions are occasionally utilized after evaluation by a medical provider at the bedside, if a patient presents harm to him or herself or others. If physical restraints are used, they should only be used as a last resort, in the least-restrictive manner, and for the shortest possible time.

    Sponsoring Organizations

    • American Geriatrics Society


    • Expert consensus


    • Geriatric Medicine
    • Psychiatric and Psychologic


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