Understanding Restraints

Restraints help keep patients as safe as possible. This handout may help answer some of your questions. If you have any other questions or concerns, talk to the healthcare provider.


Closeup of forearm and hand with restraining band around wrist.
Wrist restraints keep a patient from pulling tubes out.
Closeup of hand covered by restraining mitten.
Mitts prevent scratching at wounds or bandages.

Why restraints are used

Some medicines or illnesses can cause confusion. A patient may not remember where he or she is or why he or she is there. Restraints help keep patients from harming themselves. Restraints can help prevent such things as:

  • Wandering out of a safe area

  • Removing tubes or bandages

  • Scratching at wounds or bandages

How restraints are used

Many types of restraints are available. Each type has a purpose. Very strict guidelines say how a restraint can be used, and for how long. Healthcare providers should do the following:

  • Use restraints only after other alternatives have been tried.

  • Choose the least limiting restraint possible.

  • Check the skin under the restraint often.

  • Keep a call button within the patient’s reach when a restraint is in place.

  • Remove the restraint as soon as it is no longer needed.

  • Preserve the patient’s dignity.

  • Reassess the need for the restraint often, especially when the patient's condition changes.

How you can help

  • Know that your loved one will be assisted, if needed, in doing everything he or she needs. This includes eating, bathing, and using the toilet.

  • Don't hesitate to ask your loved one's healthcare team about the restraints, why they are used, and how long you can expect for them to be needed.

  • Once restraints are used, never remove them or loosen them yourself. If you have a concern, speak with the nurse on duty.

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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