Many Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities Continue To Threaten The Safety Of Their Patients With The Use Of Bed Rails In Their Facilities

Picture-133To many, the use of bed rails on a hospital bed provides an added level of safety  to prevent falls for patients who may be in a weakened physical state.  While use the of bed rails may be appropriate in certain situations, research tells us that bed rails are still significantly overused and can endanger patients by allowing them to become entrapped in a gaps created between the rail and the side of the mattress.  The entrapment risk can quickly kill a patient within minutes.

The New York Times recently reported on potential dangers associated with the unnecessary use of bed rails in the nursing home setting.  The Time article cites Steven Miles, a geriatrician and bioethicist at the University of Minnesota who has studied the usage of bed rails amongst the elderly.

“Rails decrease your risk of falling by 10 to 15 percent, but they increase the risk of injury by about 20 percent because they change the geometry of the fall,” Miles notes.

Information regarding the dangers of bed rails has lead to a reduction of their usage– now, less than 10% of nursing home patients have beds with bed rails.  Nonetheless, the lack of manufacturing guidelines when it comes to gaps between the mattress and the rails, continues to expose patients to an unnecessary risk.

I continue to see safety problems involving the use of mismatched mattresses and bed frames in some nursing homes and hospitals.  I recently worked on a case involving the asphyxiation of a patient where a new mattress was used on a bed frame more than 20 years old– creating a gap of more than 8 inches between the mattress and the railing.  Rather than replace the entire bedding set-up, the nursing home had apparently tried to save some money and replace the mattress alone.

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Related Nursing Homes Abuse Entries:

Warnings Do Little To Prevent Bed Rail Entrapment

How To Measure Bed Rail Gaps: A Video

Nursing Homes Curtail Use Of Physical Restraints With Residents

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0 responses to “Many Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities Continue To Threaten The Safety Of Their Patients With The Use Of Bed Rails In Their Facilities”

  1. David Brown says:

    Warnings about the dangers of bed rails for cognitively impaired elderly patients tend to be alarmist and oversimplified. My 85 y/o father, who suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, recently fell and broke his hip. Following a partial hip replacement, he was released to a skilled nursing facility for what little rehab might be possible. When I noted my alarm that there were no bed rails on the bed, the staff explained that they don’t use them anymore because of the potential for injury and abuse as a restraint. They said they would use a bed alarm instead. I voiced my skepticism that an alarm would be sufficient but went along with it. In the past 3 days my father has fallen to the floor 4 times while trying to get out of bed. He is not agile or strong enough to hoist himself over a bed rail but has just enough strength to swing his legs out the bed. The need for bed rails in his case seems obvious and the generalization of safety concerns from individual cases to the entire population of patients is just another example of simpleminded bureaucratic overprotection.

  2. Good point. Indeed there are some circumstances where the use of bed rails are necessary to protect the patient from harm. Depending on the facility, sometimes doctor’s orders are necessary for the facility to implement bed rails. Also, some facilities have specialized beds that can be lowered substantially to reduce the chance of injury to the patient.
    Best regards,
    Jonathan

    • PJK says:

      You can buy bed rails that are fully padded to avoid getting caught in the rails. As my mother was paralysed down one side, she wasn’t going to try to climb out of the bed.  The stroke restrained her.  She developed haemorrhoids once admitted to the nursing home as apparently they had no previous experience with the elderly and had no preventative treatment plans in place for immobile residents on low fibre diets.  My mother became very uncomfortable and squirmed in the bed a great deal to try to get comfortable.  This resulted in 8 horrendous falls and injuries.  The nursing home used to say that she didn’t have far to fall.  I think that’s really callous.  She became afraid to go to sleep.  It’s a very long way to fall, even with the bed down low, when you can’t break your fall because you’re paralysed.  A little bit of common sense would have helped greatly.    

  3. Jodi says:

    Why can’t the nursing homes get “huge fines” for not having perfectly proper bedrail gaps..
    and make it a requirment that bedrails be sold with bolster cushions all around the boarder
    of the beds as you do with a baby..???….I find this absolutly horrifying that the
    elderly have to be put at risk for “falling” just to prevent homes saving money on
    proper bedding equipment..How can this be o.k..??.Where is the “humanity” in our society..??..
    I’m embarressed to say our laws for the elderly are anything but “human”…

  4. Szvesq says:

    Common sense is gone.  Uniform rules which CAUSE elderly to FALL because some ding dong decided ALL restraints of whatever kind any nature is a substitute for proper care and judgment.  I am an attorney & had a parent injured by this
    ill considered uniform rule  Hard cases make bad rules.  It should be a case by
    case decision. For neglected patients parked by families with no contact, just to shorten care by homes that are too cheap to staff properly, is one thing.
    Setting these across the board rules is just a factor in the loss of good judgment
    and person by person care.

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