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Restraint as a Last Resort

For Alcohol Withdrawal

​​​We all want safe, compassionate care for those we care about, and those we care for. Sometimes safety requires limiting a person’s activity or behaviour. Restraining a person is a last resort in an emergency or when other things haven’t worked. Many healthcare providers, including Alberta Health Services (AHS), have a Restraint as a Last Resort policy.

When alcohol withdrawal causes confusion or agitation, the goal is to prevent dangerous symptoms, like seizures, and to keep the person safe. The medicine given for symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is a treatment and not a restraint. Examples of restraint used during alcohol withdrawal include wrist restraint and lap belts.

Risks of mechanical restraint include:

  • more agitation
  • discomfort or not being able to change position
  • skin breakdown, infection
  • need to use more medicines

How Can Families and Care Partners Help?

You can:

  • sit or walk with the person
  • reassure

Helpful conversations for staff, family, and care partners

  • Has the person gone through alcohol withdrawal before? If so, what were the symptoms?
  • Do you know if the person wants to quit drinking alcohol after discharge? If not, consider harm reduction strategies.

Current as of: May 1, 2018

Author: Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services