Bedrails may cause nursing home injuries

Any injury in an Ohio nursing home can cause serious injury or even death to elderly residents. One seemingly unexpected source of these injuries are bedrails that are used extensively on nursing home beds. Failure to assure the safety of these devices may constitute nursing home neglect and abuse.

Bed rails are typically metal rails that hang on the side of beds to keep residents from getting out of bed, or to prevent injury by stopping them from rolling off the bed when they sleep. These devices may also be a support mechanism for patients trying to adjust their bodies, or help them get in and out of bed.

However, over 50 percent of accidents involving bed rails caused the patient's death, according to accidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration. Each year, approximately 4,000 elderly residents were treated for bed rail injuries in this nation's emergency rooms. Since 1995, there were approximately 550 nursing home resident deaths attributed to bed rails. But, government agencies claim that many injuries are unreported.

Most injuries involve residents who become lodged between the bed mattress and rail. They may lack the strength to dislodge themselves because of their age, physical condition and medication use.

In some cases, their body weight causes them to fall lower into this gap. Then, they cannot breathe because their chest cavity becomes pushed in, or they are stressed from being trapped. Cardiac or asphyxiation may cause death.

Other injuries are caused when a patient is disoriented and tries to climb over the bed rails and off the side of the bed. If they fall out of the bed from this height, they may suffer painful fractures and other injuries.

Safety warnings and manufacturing guidelines have not been implemented, even though these injuries have been reported for over 30 years. Even when rails are designed safely, these are often used with the wrong mattresses and beds. Nursing homes often mix rails with the wrong beds and mattresses because nursing home beds are moved round, dissembled and reassembled, even when they do not fit properly.

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