Bed rails can be both a blessing and a curse to individuals who are residing in a nursing home. Families in Illinois should be aware of the reasoning behind this statement, especially in circumstances involving dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This is because these individuals are often most at risk when it comes to the potential damages that can be inflicted by bed rails. Often seen as an assisting piece of equipment, bed rails – also known as grab bars – can be helpful for patients when they are trying to leave their bed. They can also help the resident move around in bed or sit upright. Grab bars, however, can also prevent a person from leaving her or his bed, thus turning what was once seen as helpful into something that is restrictive.
In one recent case, a woman with a history of falling out of wheelchairs and beds was found with her neck lodged between her mattress and her bed rail. According to reports, she suffocated and died while stuck between the two. This woman also had a history of impaired mobility, chronic pain and dementia, making her a high-risk individual for such a situation.
Federal guidelines maintain that all facilities using grab bars or bed rails should assess patients on an individual level to determine the risk such equipment could present to them. If the risks are not worth the benefits, then a bed rail should not be used. Investigators who began examining the woman’s recent death determined no such assessment was completed.
Health care facilities have known of the dangers surrounding such equipment for years now. According to records, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning regarding bed rails in 1995. Between 1985 and 2009, reports suggest that more than 800 incidents have occurred involving bed rails across the nation, with more than half causing death.
If you or your loved one have been a victim of nursing home neglect, consider talking to an attorney that has experience in holding these facilities liable.
Source: Dairyland Peach, “MDH investigation finds neglect in death related to a bed rail” No author given, Jul. 28, 2013