Why can bedrails be dangerous?

If a loved one is in a nursing home or other long-term facility, you're likely relieved to see that there are bed rails on their bed. These rails, which are typically made out of metal, help keep people from rolling out of bed and suffering broken bones or other serious injuries. They can also be used to help people adjust their position, which can prevent discomfort and conditions like bedsores.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that bedrails have caused a number of injuries and even deaths. People who have mobility limitations and other physical and mental issues are particularly at risk. So are those on medications that may weaken them or impact their ability to respond to a dangerous situation. They can become trapped between the rail and the bed or sometimes between the rail and something else.

A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated, "Rail entrapment occurred when the victim was caught, stuck, wedged or trapped between the mattress/bed and the bed rail, between bed rail bars, between a commode and rail, between the floor and the rail, or between the headboard and rail." Most injuries involve the head and/or neck.

Some people may not even realize that they're trapped. If they do, they might not be strong enough to disengage themselves or call for help. Some people have suffocated. The problem can be exacerbated if a facility is short-staffed or if caregivers don't check up on patients as often as they should.

As noted, bedrails can be an important tool in preventing falls. However, it's essential that bedrails are only used with the appropriate mattress and bed frame. Otherwise, the gap between the bed and the rail and be too wide, and people can get caught in it.

Nursing home staffs often disassemble beds to move them and then reassemble them. If the bedrails aren't the appropriate ones for the new frame and mattress, they may not fit as precisely as they should.

If a loved one is injured or worse in a fall from their bed or in a bedrail-related incident, it may be wise to determine whether the nursing home could and should have taken precautions to prevent it. An attorney experienced in nursing home neglect and abuse cases can be a valuable resource.

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