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What Are Bed Rails And Why Are They Used In Nursing Homes?

Bed rails are metal or plastic railings attached to the side of patients’ hospital beds. They have multiple uses in a nursing home setting, including:

  • Preventing falls – Rails can keep a resident from falling out of bed during their sleep and injuring themselves and can also prevent those who need assistance from getting out of bed unattended.
  • Additional support – Bed rails can assist residents in getting in and out of their bed or in adjusting their position in their bed.

Bed rails are safe and convenient for residents who have a certain amount of physical strength and who remain mentally sound.

Can Bed Rails Be Dangerous For Nursing Home Residents?

Unfortunately, it is common for nursing home residents to be injured by bed rails. Often, they will manage to become painfully lodged between the mattress and the bed rail. Nursing facility residents are often quite frail and may be on medications that cause sedation. These elderly, sometimes sedated, individuals do not have the strength or the awareness to free themselves from such a situation. Their body weight then causes them to sink further into the space between the mattress and the rail and their chest cavity is crushed to the point that they lose the ability to breathe. Death occurs either by cardiac arrest or by asphyxiation if they remain trapped.

Other times, disoriented residents will try to climb out of bed over the bed rail and fall. Falling from this increased height can cause very serious fractures and other injuries in the elderly.

Why Are Bed Rails So Unsafe For The Elderly?

The use of bed rails in nursing homes is not controlled by any significant rules or regulations. Injuries and deaths caused by bed rails have been being reported to the government for over thirty years. Somehow, safety warnings and guidelines for the use and manufacturing of bed rails have still never been put in place.

Another danger of bed rails is that they are not always used in combination with the correct mattresses and beds. Bed rails are designed to be used with compatible beds and mattresses. When used correctly, the rails tend to be safe. However, nursing homes frequently move beds around and bed rails are often mixed with the wrong bed and/or the wrong mattress. The fit between the two products is not perfect and this creates a dangerous gap between the bed rails and the mattresses, which can create an environment where crushing incidents are likely to occur.

How Can Bed Rail Injuries Be Avoided?

Any time you are visiting your loved one at a nursing home, you should check the bed and the bed rail to see whether they fit properly and are safe for use. Push the mattress to see if you are able to create a gap between it and the bed rail. If you can place four or more fingers between the bed rail and the mattress, the bed is not safe. If you buy bed rails to use at home, research what you are buying. Rails do not always actually match the mattresses that they are being sold with.

For more information on Bed Rail Injuries In Nursing Homes, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 800-835-5762 & 954-456-2488 today.

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