Your first thought might be that having bed rails is most certainly safer than not having them. In reality, they offer a mix of benefits and drawbacks for young children and the elderly. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as many as 803 patients in hospitals and nursing homes were injured or died in bed rail accidents between 1985 and 2009. So what is the real story?
Bed rails, when used appropriately, play an important safety role. They prevent the young, the sick, and the elderly from falling out of bed and sustaining injuries. For some, bed rails are the best solution, despite the risks; for others, they may be largely unnecessary, more a threat than a safety measure.
Benefits of Bed Rails
One reason people use bed rails is because they provide stationary movement assistance. Individuals can use the rails to help them move around in the bed or for support when they sit up or get out of bed. In some cases, the support and safety of bed railing comfort the people who use it. The most notable benefit, however, is in preventing falls.
Drawbacks of Bed Rails
Bed rails can also cause injuries. A person can get stuck in between the railing and the bed, causing injury, suffocation, or death. They can cause anxiety and frustration. Serious injuries can occur when someone tries to climb over the railing.
Minimizing the Risk While Maximizing Safety
Bed rails come in many shapes and sizes, and some are more hazardous than others are. The rails themselves are not the only issue to consider. Whether the patient is young or old, caregivers must provide oversight to minimize the risk.
- Evaluate the railing setup for safety hazards. You may want to lie in the bed with the railing up and consider safety scenarios. If you could see someone being injured as a result of the way the railing attaches to the bed, look at alternatives.
- Educate users. Some bed railings operate with a simple latching movement while others may require electronic folding. Anyone staying in the bed or caring for someone in the bed should understand how the railing works.
- Carefully monitor individuals. People who are too young or who don’t have the mental capacity to understand the railing’s role may try to climb over it or use it in an unsafe manner.
- Use railing only when absolutely necessary. In the elderly, the risk of injury in a bed railing accident is 10% higher than of injury in a fall. If you don’t absolutely need the rails, avoid using them altogether.
It is rare that the injured party is responsible for a bed railing accident. A caretaker, the manufacturer, or the facility may be liable. For more information, contact West Virginia medical malpractice attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC today.