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Nursing Home Bed Rails Cause Personal Injuries

personal injuriesBetween 2005 and 2013, there were seven deaths reported to the FDA that were associated with the use of a portable bed rail. While that figure alone sounds staggering, injuries are more prevalent with use of the devices. Between 1985 and 2013, the FDA received reports of medical devices that revealed 901 incidents of patients being strangled, entangled, caught or trapped in their own hospital beds. The reports detail 531 deaths, 151 nonfatal injuries and 220 cases of staff intervention to prevent injury and death referred to as “near misses.”

This information might prompt some to ask why these devices are used for the elderly, frail or disoriented. The devices carry many benefits such as aiding in turning and repositioning patients in their bed to avoid sores, providing easy access to bed controls and personal items for patients, lowering the risk of a fall when patients are being transported, giving a sense of security to patients, and giving patients something to hold onto in order to aid them when getting in or out of the bed.

On the other hand, these devices come with risks that can sometimes outweigh the benefits or require staff to closely monitor patients. These risks include, but are not limited to, strangulation or suffocation when a patient becomes caught between rails or between the rails and bed, skin bruises along with cuts and scrapes, feelings of unnecessary restriction or isolation, agitation when used as a restraint, minor injuries in falls that come from patients attempting to climb over the rails, and preventing patients that are capable of getting out of bed from performing their daily routine without assistance.

Considerations While Using Bed Rails

For those with loved ones that need bed rails, it’s important to be prudent when visiting. Be sure to check the bed and rails for safety. Pushing the mattress as far from the bed rails as possible and ensure you are not able to get four full fingers between the two, as this is a red flag for a lack of safety in the bed. In most cases, patients are able to be in bed without a bed rail. In those cases, consider the following:

  • Using a bed that can be raised or lowered to the floor to accommodate the patient and staff member.
  • Using the lowest position for the bed with locked wheels.
  • Using transfer aids rather than the rails.
  • Using more frequent monitoring when possible.
  • Try to anticipate needs of a patient to avoid the necessity for rails.

If your loved one has been injured due to a bed rail at a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today to learn more.


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