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Restraint as a Last Resort

Restraint as a Last Resort

Information for You, Your Family and Your Care Partners​

​​​​​​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. There are 4 types of restraint in the AHS policy:

  • Physical restraint is hands-on holding of arms, legs, or body
  • Medicine is a restraint when given to control behaviour or activity
  • Mechanical restraint, such as a lap belt, limits movement
  • Environmental restraint limits a person to a room or area by using a barrier such as a door the person can’t open

Restraint is a last resort because of many risks and safety concerns. Risks include:

  • emotional trauma, fear, mistrust of health care providers
  • medicine side effects such as confusion, falls, not being able to sleep at night
  • loss of muscle strength, falls
  • stress, delirium
  • frustration, hopelessness, agitation, anger

How Can You as a Care Partner Help?

Families, guardians, agents and support people can share ideas and help care providers understand what helps and what upsets the person. You can help identify things that may work instead of restraint.

Ways to avoid restraint depend on the reason restraint is being considered.

Restraint as a last resort:

  • behavioural emergencies
  • to prevent falls
  • for medical devices
  • during alcohol withdrawal
  • to prevent wandering
  • for agitation with dementia
  • in delirium
  • for children

Current as of: May 1, 2018

Author: Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services