Wheelchair brakes a restraint in LTC?

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    I’m looking for Canadian (esp Ontario) guidelines and standards, but actual professional practices and related experiences are welcome. 

    I’m a first year, mature BScN student in LTC placement, and I understand that the theory we learn in class doesn’t always translate completely to actual practice, but this one is piquing my curiosity and challenging my thinking skills. 

    After feeding a non-ambulatory, aphasic resident, I returned her to her room in her wheelchair, but had to wait for staff to complete her transfer (ceiling lift) to her bed. I stepped out in the hall to greet the PSWs and as I reoriented the resident’s wheelchair for the transfer, I unlocked the brakes I had applied and said how in class and lab it had been drilled in that we always have to make sure that safety precaution is taken. The PSW then explained to me that applying the brakes like that (and leaving the resident, even momentarily) would actually be considered a restraint and a fine could result if the Ministry should happen to witness it during an inspection. 

    I gently probed the logic (isn’t it a safety issue so the resident doesn’t inadvertently roll?), but didn’t want the PSWs to feel defensive–after all, I’m just a newbie student and they have years of experience. I did bring it up with my clinical instructor after the occurrence, and she too was very surprised and was going to get more information. 

    I’m sure it would not be considered a restraint if the patient was able to unlock and propel the chair themselves, but it isn’t so clear when the patient is dependent, so I understand it may very well be possible. 

    Can anyone direct me to actual documentation that would address this?

    Thank you!

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