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Bed Rail Entrapment
While bedrail entrapment is a relatively rare injury to occur in a nursing home, when it does happen it can be deadly. Nursing home residents are more likely than not to die when this occurs. When they are trapped, they statistically are likely to asphyxiate and get strangled to death. In most instances where a resident is injured in this manner, it occurs because the nursing home has failed to follow regulations regarding the bedrails. It can also happen because the nursing home is using an outdated bedrail that presents an additional risk to the resident. Although this section deals generally with entrapment, it will also cover other injuries that relate to bedrails, such as falls.
Nursing homes must appropriately choose the best type of bedrail for each resident. It is not a one-size-fits all proposition. When a resident is injured by bedrail entrapment, there is a strong chance that the nursing home has either done something wrong or has acted negligently. If this has happened to your loved one, you should retain an attorney to take immediate and firm legal action against the nursing home. In that case, you may be able to receive financial compensation if you are able to prove that either the nursing home’s actions, or their failure to act, caused your loved one’s injury.When are Bedrails Used?
Some patients may not be able to independently move on their own, but still believe that they have that ability. Accordingly, they will try to get out of bed, but will then fall and are injured. In other instances, the resident may have dementia or Alzheimer’s and have a propensity to get out of bed and wander, subjecting them to various dangers. When this happens, there may be a need for some sort of an intervention in order to reduce the risks to resident safety.What are a Nursing Home’s Obligations?
The Centers for Medicaid Services has issued guidance for bedrails. Side rails may not be used as restrains unless it is necessary to treat a particular medical condition. Raised side rails typically act as a restraint for residents because they tend to keep the resident in bed more often. For that reason, nursing homes must have a valid reason to use side rails. Not only are they a restraint, but they also increase the risk of entrapment.
Bedrails can be used to help a resident get into and out of bed. Subject to documentation and assessment, there are helpful uses for them, provided that are not used without the proper justification. The use of restraints needs to be documented. There have been many examples of nursing homes receiving health citations on their Medicare inspection reports because they have used bedrails without justification.How Should Nursing Homes Select a Bedrail?
Some of the factors that nursing homes should consider when selecting a bedrail for the resident include:
- The benefits of using bedrails – They can reduce some risk that the patient will fall in getting out of bed. In addition, they can also aid in turning and repositioning in the bed which can reduce the risk of pressure ulcers.
- Other alternatives to bedrails – Bedrails are restrictive and can be risky. Can the same ends be achieved without the use of bedrails? Is there a care program that can be instituted that can eliminate the need for the bedrails
- The risks of bedrails – These include strangulation, more significant falls when residents try to climb over the rail, preventing patients from trying to perform activities of daily life and engendering feelings of isolation.
Nursing homes must consult with the resident’s physician as well as the family before making this decision. Selecting bedrails is not just something that can be done without any forethought and consideration.Statistics on Bedrail Entrapment
Bedrail entrapment will usually get reported to the Food and Drug Administration, who is the relevant regulator overseeing bedrails. CMS will oversee the use of the bedrails in nursing home, while the actual product is considered to be a medical device. In the period between 1985 and 2009, there were 803 incidents where nursing home residents or hospital patients were entrapped. 480 people died as a result and another 138 were injured. This means that residents are more likely to die than not when they experience bedrail entrapment. Exacerbating the injury and fatality rates is the fact that nursing home residents are frail and may not be able to dislodge themselves when they are trapped in the manner that a healthy person would.
Separately, there are also reports to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. From 2003 to 2012, there were 143 deaths from bedrail entrapment. An overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred in those over the age of 60.What Happens When a Resident is Entrapped?
Residents will most often have their heads wedged between the mattress and the bedrail. Alternatively, they can have their heads stuck between the bedrails. This largely impacts the head and the neck. Most commonly, the air flow will be cut off for the resident because they cannot breathe. Falls are another deadly thing that occurs. Residents may attempt to climb over the bedrails to get out of the bed. This will involve them climbing to a higher elevation. When they fall from this elevation, they have a high likelihood of falling on their heads or hurting their necks. These falls are often deadly. The risks of injury become more pronounced when the resident is disoriented for whatever reason.Where is the Nursing Home’s Potential Liability?
There are several theories under which a nursing home can be found liable when a resident is injured by being entrapped in their bedrail.
- The nursing home failed to justify the use of the bedrail in the first place
- The staff did not adequately supervise the use of the bedrail
- The nursing home should have found the resident entrapped in enough time to free them
- The nursing home purchased a defective bedrail
Fine in Minnesota – There were media reports of a resident who asphyxiated when her head was caught between the mattress and a grab bar. The nursing home apparently did not have a policy about size of mattresses and bed handles in order to reduce the risk of bedrail entrapment. The resident was found face down in her bed and not breathing. The state recommended that a fine be assessed against the nursing home operator.
Lawsuit Filed in Vermont – A 95-year old woman died when her head became trapped between her bed rail and an air mattress. According to the lawsuit, the death was caught by an improper bed height, the facility’s failure to re-evaluate bed choice based on changes to the resident’s health and an understaffing of the facility on the night that the resident died. The nursing home represented that the resident fell on the death certificate although they were cited by the state for violations relating to bedding.
Fine in Pennsylvania – An 89-year old man died when his neck became trapped in the bedrails. The resident was found on the floor with their neck trapped between the mattress and the rails. The nursing home received a substantial fine in connection with this incident.
Lawsuit Filed in Massachusetts (2007) – A resident slid in her bed. When this happened, her chin became wedged between the bedrail and the mattress. The lawsuit claimed that there was a gap between the bedrail and the mattress and the staff should have known this because they found the resident in a similar position several days before she died.
Jury Verdict for $300,000 in California (2006) – The resident, whose bedrails had a history of defects, was found dead on the floor of her room. There was no concrete evidence that the resident had suffocated and no autopsy was performed. Nevertheless, the jury found the nursing home responsible for the death and made award to the resident’s family.
Settlement for $570,000 in Illinois (2009) – The resident was found with her head trapped between the bed and the bedrail. The family had claimed the nursing home has put bedrails on her bed unnecessarily. The women asphyxiated.Has Your Loved One Been Injured in a Nursing Home by Bedrail Entrapment? Get Legal Help Now
The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center can help your family get the justice that they deserve in the form of financial compensation from the nursing home where your loved one was injured. We can help you with the entire legal process that is necessary for your family to obtain a financial settlement from filing the claim all the way through litigation if necessary. Contact us today so we can discuss your case with you. The consultation will not cost you anything and you pay us nothing unless we are able to help you get compensation. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 and let us use our expertise and track record to the benefit of you and your family.Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources