05(05): Navigating the Complexities of Restraint Use in Elderly Care

Nicholas Loh Avatar


In a recent public forum, Ms Lim expressed her concerns about the use of restraints in elderly care, particularly for her mother. As a medical student who has witnessed the challenges of managing agitated elderly patients, I empathise with her concerns and appreciate her speaking out.

The Necessity, Ethics, and Consequences of Restraints

Physical restraints can be necessary in medical settings to prevent disoriented or confused patients from inadvertently causing harm to themselves or others. However, it is crucial to differentiate between appropriate restraint use and excessive application. Hospital protocols should adhere to ethical guidelines, minimise restraint utilisation, and respect the dignity and autonomy of patients.

Ms Lim’s apprehension about her mother’s care is understandable, given the potential consequences of restraint use, such as prolonged immobilisation, muscle atrophy, pressure ulcers, and adverse psychological effects. These concerns underscore the importance of finding alternative approaches to ensure the well-being of our ageing population.

Exploring Alternatives and Encouraging Open Dialogue

Healthcare professionals continuously seek alternatives to physical restraints, such as multidisciplinary care plans, addressing reversible underlying causes of agitation, and using personalised environmental modifications and assistive devices. Family members play a crucial role in patient care by offering emotional support and advocating for their loved ones. Ms Lim’s decision to voice her concerns highlights the importance of open dialogue between hospitals, medical professionals, patients, and their families in addressing concerns and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard.


Admittedly, the issue of physical restraints in elderly care is complex. As Singapore’s population ages, prioritising the well-being of our elderly patients becomes increasingly important. By embracing a holistic approach to patient care, we can minimise the use of physical restraints and ensure a more compassionate healthcare experience for our elderly patients.

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