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The Nursing School has started a $500,000 program to "untie" the elderly. For many years, nursing homes have had to resort to tying elderly patients to their beds and wheelchairs. Nurses have had to use belts and vests that prevent patients from self-inflicted harm including falling, leaving the area, and removing their own intravenous feedings. Recent research suggests that the elderly suffer adverse psychological effects from being restrained and often lose muscle tone and strength, making it more difficult for them to walk. But two Nursing School professors are out to change that. Associate Nursing Professor Neville Strumpf said yesterday that she and Associate Nursing Professor Lois Evans are examining various alternatives to physical restraints using a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. Since October, the federal government has required nursing homes to ease the use of restraints, which are currently used on approximately 500,000 patients daily. The professors will use the grant to change restraint systems for 600 patients in three nursing homes in the Philadelphia area over a 34 month period. "There are many other approaches for dealing with patients who wander, are disruptive, or interfere with their own treatment," Strumpf said. She and Evans said they hope the program will provide new methods of solving this problem. "Most nursing homes want to untie the elderly, but they don't know how to go about it," Evans said. Their research has lead them to believe that a change in atmosphere and attitude in the health facility can diminish the need for restraint. The research team has compared nursing homes in the U.S. to those in Scotland, Sweden and Denmark, which restrain patients 10 times less. Strumpf said that drugs may provide a "more humane" way of preventing patients from hurting themselves. The research team, in conjunction with Senior Nursing Fellow Doris Schwartz, published a report on restraint-free care this summer in Geriatric Nursing magazine. The article indicates that some of the reasons behind the wide-spread use of physical restraints are derived from social problems.

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