Reducing the use of physical restraints in nursing homes: will it increase costs?
OBJECTIVES. Reducing the widespread use of physical restraints in nursing homes is a primary goal of the federal nursing home reforms enacted as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. However, some nursing home operators assert that reducing restraint use could be prohibitively expensive, costing payors perhaps as much as $1 billion annually. We investigated whether nursing home residents free from physical restraint require more care and resources than similar residents who are restrained. METHODS. We examined the major component of nursing home costs--staff time--and its allocation among residents who were physically restrained and those who were not restrained. The multivariate analysis used staff-time-study data on the care of 11,932 nursing home residents in 276 facilities in seven states. RESULTS. The analyses indicate that, when differences in impairment and care needs are controlled for, residents who are physically restrained require more nursing care than other residents. Higher levels of nursing-assistant time were consistently provided to restrained residents. CONCLUSIONS. Residents free of restraints are less costly to care for than restrained residents. The 1987 federal requirements concerning restraint use, which are aimed at improving quality of care and quality of life, can be implemented without engendering a major increase in care costs