LETTER: Patient seat belt legislation needs to be revisited

Apparently the following situation is not uncommon and due to legislation will not be rectified.

My husband is confined to a wheel chair in an LTC home. His needs are well attended to except for the fact that he has fallen three times and injured himself when attempting to rise from said chair. No seat belts are provided because it has been legislated they take away a patient’s right even though my husband has dementia and doesn’t understand what that premise means.

Research revealed an elder abuse symptom is “confinement”. Interestingly enough research also revealed that , “patient abuse or neglect is any action or failure to act which causes unreasonable suffering, misery or harm to the patient. Patient abuse of those older than 60 forms a large proportion of patient abuse”. Apparently all LTC homes and hospitals have to follow both that dictum as well as no seat belts in wheel chairs. Interesting situation considering both positions are diametrically opposed.

Not providing a seat belt which has resulted in three falls, injuries and subsequent pain necessitating medication certainly falls into the category of a failure to act i.e. confinement with a seat belt. The falls have caused unreasonable suffering, misery and harm to my husband. He is 81 years old and unable to act in his own behalf.

The powers that be should consider instituting a waiver for families of patients unable to speak for themselves. If the family/caregivers reasonably deem it necessary their loved one requires protection from harm due to the of lack of a wheelchair seat belt, then they should be able to sign a waiver allowing a seat belt to be installed in a wheelchair without an LTC’s fear of a backlash should a claim of ‘patient rights’ comes to the fore.

Otherwise it’s blatantly clear even a dementia patient has been given the right to rise from sitting in a wheelchair, lose balance, fall forward on terrazzo floors, injure themselves, endure pain suffering and additional meds on top of what they are already taking. However, they don’t have the right to protection from a seat belt like they would if they were riding in a car.

Janet Bingham.