The Unspoken Dangers of Bed Rails for Seniors

For many nursing home residents, bed rails can help prevent falling and assist their stability when leaving the bed. 

However, some facilities use bed rails to restrict a resident’s movement, or use a type ill-suited to a resident’s situation. This can pave the way for bed rail entanglement or entrapment. These are rare injuries in nursing homes, but when they do happen it can be deadly. 

The lawyers at The Thistle Law Firm have over 80 years of experience in fighting for those wronged by this type of nursing home abuse and neglect. If you or your loved one has been affected by negligently employed bed rails, get in touch and get us on your side today. 

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What are the Risks of Using Bed Rails?

For many nursing homes, the risks of using bed rails aren’t considered. Many care facilities use outdated beds that come equipped with bed rails that don’t match residents’ needs. Through such neglect, they may create a situation where residents must deal with the challenges bed rails present themselves.

Potential risks of bed rails include:

  • Strangling, suffocating, bodily injuries, or death resulting from residents becoming caught between the bed rail and mattress
  • A heightened risk of falling injuries when patients climb over rails
  • Bruising, cuts, and scrapes from rails
  • Agitation or isolated feelings in residents
  • Acting as an illegal physical restraint for residents who are able to get out of bed and do routine tasks by themselves, such as going to the bathroom or retrieving something from a closet


How Common Are Bed Rail Injuries?

Bed rail entanglement is the deadliest injury that can result from the use of bed rails. This often occurs in residents who are too weak or confused to navigate bed rails correctly. 

Residents can fall by trying to crawl over bed rails, or become trapped between the rails and the bed. Such entrapment may lead to asphyxiation. Statistically, people who find themselves in this situation are more likely to die than not. 

According to the FDA, 803 instances of nursing facility bed rail entanglement occurred between 1985 and 2009, with 480 deaths and 138 injuries resulting. 

In a separate study, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found an estimated 39,600 adult portable bed rail injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments from 2003 to 2013.


Who Is Most at Risk of Bed Rail Injury?

The majority of nursing home residents have no trouble navigating bed rails. Many patients feel more secure with them in place.

These are not the residents we’re addressing in this article. For a minority of residents, bed rails can be restrictive and dangerous. Nursing homes that can’t distinguish between these two populations may be guilty of neglect or abuse.

Those with the following conditions should be given special consideration in the matter of bed rail use:

  • Those suffering from dementia
  • Residents affected by delirium
  • Those who suffer spasticity and other forms of uncontrolled muscle movement
  • People with physical limitations and general frailty


Alternatives to Bed Rails

There are many other ways for competent nursing homes to meet the challenges of resident safety besides bed rails. Failure to consider the following accommodations may also constitute neglect:

  • Using beds that can be raised and lowered close to the floor
  • Keeping the bed in the lowest position with wheels locked
  • Placing mats next to the bed when resident is at risk of falling out of bed
  • Monitoring residents frequently
  • Anticipating the reasons residents get out of bed and proactively meeting these needs 

Since nursing facilities have come to realize the dangers of bed rails, the following innovations have come into widespread use. A nursing home can use the following to replace bed rails entirely:

  • Transfer or mobility aids
  • Concave mattresses
  • Bed wedges, bumpers, and bolsters
  • Vertical poles
  • Bed trapezes
  • Bed alarms
  • Posey Enclosure Beds
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When to Consult with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If your loved one has suffered from nursing home malpractice, Thistle Law can help turn the tables in your favor. While our lawyers aggressively work to maximize your financial compensation, we also provide caring and responsive service to help reduce stress during this trying process. We take the time to listen to you, understand your concerns, and come up with solutions that can make life better for you and your family.

The attorneys at Thistle Law are compassionate and knowledgeable about personal injury claims and can help you gather the evidence you need to prove your case. Contact our office for a free consultation today by calling 215-525-6824 or by filling out this form

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