A lot of staff people talk about restraints like they are not the greatest thing, but it seems like they don't understand what is wrong with them. I am not an expert but this is just how I feel.
I think a lot of people feel like restraints are bad because they are scary-looking. To be honest a lot of people don't even seem to feel that much(1), but anyway. Some people and places are "restraint-free." They believe in being gentle. The question is: is gentleness restraint-free?
I have always been told stuff like, ask someone what shirt they want to wear not whether they want to get dressed(2). Make statements about what's happening, don't ask questions. The idea is that if you do this the idea of disagreeing with what you're doing won't even enter the person's head. Which is supposed to be the ideal thing--no conflict. But these "tricks"--presented as innocently as advice on how to transfer someone--are intended to keep a person from making decisions about their own life that might be inconvenient to you. Is this extremely different from physically making it so the person can't move?
Picture a staff person who reacts with complete sweetness and friendliness to a resident who's trying to do something like get up when he is supposed to be asleep. The staff person distracts the resident with conversation while gently guiding him back to his bed, and it seems that she has successfully caused him to forget what he had planned to do.
I can't think of any supervisor I know who would watch this interaction and not come away thinking, "wow, what a good staff person." The person is avoiding conflict and keeping the resident (apparently) calm and happy, while still efficiently controlling him. The supervisor might even think that this is a staff person who really cares about her residents because she is so "gentle" and didn't do anything that came off as angry or aggressive.
But what is actually caring about not allowing someone to make a choice, and not even having enough respect to tell them what you're doing? Is it caring to try to trick someone to the point that they won't even know what is going on? (If someone has a disability like dementia, is it really going to help them keep skills as long as possible if you are trying to control them by making them confused?)
There are other things that aren't always recognized as restraints, like failing to offer someone the support they need to do something you don't agree with. But I feel like these this are sometimes recognized as restraints. Like in Ohio, leaving someone in a locked wheelchair is a restraint, which seems to be along the right lines. (Chairs are not though, which is weird since at least some people could unlock a wheelchair.)
I feel like the idea is that it's bad to do something that would look immediately abusive at a glance or look like someone's stereotype of a restraint. Merely being controlling isn't recognized as wrong and the implications and affects of trying to manipulative someone into doing what you want are not considered.
(1)In my nurse aide class, we were told that while we would be shown how to put someone in restraints, we didn't need to learn how to do it because it was no longer on the state test. As part of the class we were taught and tested on lots of things that could be considered attitudes or ethics, like "don't try to convert residents to your religion" or "be willing to listen to a resident talk about their problems." Our various teachers, who were nurses, would give us advice from their experiences about how to treat residents properly.
But absolutely no subjective comments were ever made about restraints and why they were no longer on the state test. No one even said, "it's better not to use restraints" or the most basic thing in support of more facilities being restraint-free.
When one of our teachers put a student in a restraint to show us, everyone just watched like it was normal. Except one girl was really creeped out. She said, "I have a friend who can't stand being held still and if you did that to her she would go crazy. Anyone would go crazy if you did that to them. It's wrong." She said this almost to herself, not like she expected a response, and no one gave her one.
(2)When I described this "trick," Pancho Ruiz suggested that it could work not because the person has actually been kept from considering other options, but because assuming consent like this would be sufficiently scary to stop the person from disagreeing with staff.