The vast majority of hospital and nursing home beds have metal bed rails attached them, intended to stop patients from rolling out of bed while sleeping. The patients at most risk of a fall from bed injury are the elderly and very young children. However, they can actually be more harmful than helpful if your loved one is not properly supervised in a nursing home facility. In fact, most people have no idea how common it is for bed rail injuries to occur in nursing homes, and many could be prevented by adequate care and attention from the staff.
The cause of injury, and sometimes death, with hospital and nursing home bed rails is typically entrapment or even strangulation, when any part of the patient becomes caught in the bed rail and the patient is not quickly assisted to prevent further harm. The FDA oversees the manufacture and use of bed rails because they are considered to be medical devices. This means that the FDA is responsible for ensuring that these devices are safe, and they do so by creating guidelines for the manufacturers to create bed rails that are safe and work properly.
Even so, not all bed rails that are manufactured and used fall into the category of medical devices governed by the FDA. Bed rails that are portable and designed to be installed on any ordinary bed do not have to follow the FDA guidelines. Rather, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for portable bed rails, including the ones that medical supply stores sell. Even though they may be sold by such an entity, they are still subject to the CPSC instead of the FDA when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of their designs.
How Do Bed Rail Injuries Occur in Nursing Homes?
The goal of a bed rail in a nursing home is to prevent the patient from falling out of bed, and also to make it easier for the patient to sit up, being able to use the bed rail to pull up their weight. The risk typically occurs when someone is confused and somehow gets themselves entangled in the bed rail or ends up trapped between the mattress and the bed rail. In cases where the patient becomes entangled in the bed railing, they may end up with a broken bone, and could even be strangled by the bed rail. In cases where the patient gets trapped between the mattress and the bed rail, they often suffocate.
Bed rail injuries are so common, that there were more than 800 FDA reports of this kind of incident occurring between the 1980s and 2010, with more deaths (480) than injuries (138) reported. When it comes to the portable bed rails, which are managed by the CPSC, there were 155 deaths and five injuries reported from ’03 to ’12, with nearly 130 of those deaths involving the elderly. Those with illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are at greatest risk, followed by those with conditions that cause seizures or loss control of muscle movement (such as MS and Parkinson’s Disease) and those who suffer from paralysis or limited mobility.
One of the primary concerns in these injuries and deaths include differences in the manufacturers and designs of the bed, the bed rail, the mattress, and other bed parts. This results in significant gaps between pieces of equipment, allowing for entrapment. Yet, even when this is not an issue, such injuries can still happen. For this reason, another primary concern is the lack of supervision of the elderly, as many injuries and deaths could be prevented by a quick response to the danger and the need of the patient to be assisted.
Preventing Injuries From Bed Rails in South Carolina Nursing Homes
It is important to address the risks associated with the elderly falling out of bed, so we can’t simply discontinue the use of bed rails in nursing homes without an alternative solution. One way that caregivers can minimize the risk of bed rail injuries is to use roll guards or a concave mattress to prevent the patient from rolling off of the bed, instead of bed rails.
If bed rails are used, then it is important to minimize the associated hazards by ensuring that all of the parts of the bed and bed rails are manufactured by the same company and intended to be used together. This helps in making sure that all of the parts fit together as they should and are less likely to leave gaps where an elderly patient could become trapped. With the same goal, it is wise to inspect the different parts of the bed and look for such hazards.
It is also important to ensure that the patient is being well supervised and cared for. There should be someone available to anticipate the patient’s needs, such as the need to use the restroom or get a drink of water. If an elderly person spends most of their time in bed, it is also wise to anticipate that they may become restless and wish to get out of bed occasionally. If someone is there to help them, then they are less likely to become injured. Further, if they do end up entangled or entrapped by the bed rail, then they can quickly be saved if there is someone watching out for them, as there should be in a nursing home.
Was Your Loved One Injured or Killed by a Nursing Home Bed Rail Injury?
When someone you love is being cared for in a nursing home facility, they should not be injured or killed by a bed rail injury. There should be a caregiver available to assist them in getting in and out of bed, to provide for their needs, to provide quick help when they are in danger. If your loved one was injured or killed by a nursing home bed rail injury, then the nursing home facility could have been negligent in their duty to the patient, and you may have a claim against them.
Call the dedicated and skilled South Carolina nursing home abuse attorney at the Bryan Ramey & Associates to learn how we can help.
Bryan Ramey is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in the upstate of South Carolina. He graduated from The University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 27 years now. Bryan Ramey believes in representing the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.