Use of Bed Siderails in Nursing Homes
According to nursing home industry and research and new articles – it was nearly two decades ago when it was realized that the bed siderails on the beds used in hospitals and nursing homes presented a danger. Senior citizens were getting entangled in the rails or trapped between the rail and the mattress.
Since 1998, measures were put in place make rails safer, but that didn’t stop the rail deaths. More and more beds throughout Minneapolis and all through Minnesota have either had the rails taken off when possible or new types of railings put on.
The number of elderly people injured by bed side rails is in the thousands and the number killed is in the hundreds. The purpose of the rails is to make sure the individual doesn’t fall out of the bed. However, some have had their heads stuck in the rails and they have experienced severe injury or they have suffocated.
In 1999, a report was done on the dangers of siderails. At that time there were 7 Minnesota patient deaths in a two year period. Nationwide there were 74 deaths over a three-year period.
The report found that nursing homes, federal regulators, and the bed manufacturers knew for decades that bed siderails were hazardous. The most that had been done up to that point was a warning to nursing homes by the FDA in 1995. After that, very little was done to correct the problem.
Safety Concerns Addresssed – Bed Siderails, Bedrails, Guard rails
According to the FDA, this Safety Alert concerns entrapment hazards associated with the use of hospital bed side rails in a small, identifiable patient population, and recommends certain actions to prevent such hazards. The Alert is not specific to any manufacturer or product; it is part of a cooperative effort between FDA, the healthcare industry, and manufacturers to resolve the problem. Currently, no universal standards exist for design of hospital bed side rails.
Since January 1990, FDA has received 102 reports of head and body entrapment incidents involving hospital bed side rails. The 68 deaths, 22 injuries, and 12 entrapments without injury occurred in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and private homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the United Kingdom Department of Health, and the Canadian Health Protection Branch have also received similar reports of entrapment.(1,2,3) Although the number of reported incidents is small relative to the large number of patients who use hospital beds, we believe appropriate precautions can reduce further incidents.
Fifteen years later, patients are continuing to die from bedrail incidents. Some of these incidents include trapping between the mattress and the siderail, entrapment between air mattresses and siderails, and becoming entangled in the rail.
Between 2003 and 2012, the Consumer Product Safety Commission states that nearly 37,000 people nationwide visited emergency rooms and there were 155 deaths because of bed siderails. Many of these accidents occurred in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and patient homes. Most of the victims were over the age of 60.
It is believed that the number of siderail deaths in nursing homes is underreported. It can be very easy for a facility to attribute the cause of death to the condition that landed them in the nursing home to begin with. There was even a case where the nursing home hid the bed mattress after a patient strangled to death in the rails. In addition to underreporting, confidentiality clauses that are inserted into lawsuit settlements can mask the problem.
Where children’s cribs and the side rails to children’s beds are regulated, adult siderails are mostly unregulated.
In 1999, health care representatives and government regulators had meetings to find a solution to the problem, but little progress resulted. Hospitals simply received guidance regarding siderails in 2006. There was also an abandoned suggestion to require warning labels.
Nonetheless, medical professionals have argued that the safety of bedrails far outweigh the risks in that they keep people from falling out of their beds and experiencing broken bones or even death.
Part of the problem in nursing homes is that mattress and bedrails are frequently mixed and matched, resulting in mattresses that don’t compress easily or fit being paired with the wrong type of bedrail. This can leave a gap for a patient to become trapped in. This has been deemed the result of poor training on the matter rather than a case of nursing home neglect unless the employee is trained on proper bed assembly. With no regulations, even the facilities are not penalized for poor training of employees.
Steps are being made to write standards for siderails to avoid accidents, but there is no timeline on how long the process will take.
If you have concerns about someone injured by bed siderails or any other type of medical equipment, call Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer Kenneth LaBore for a Free Consultation at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589 or by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com