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Consumer Voice Testimony on Bed Rail Safety

Bed rails have been a hot topic among elder care advocates in recent years. Yet for all the discussion and mounting evidence about the dangers of these pieces of equipment, there has yet to be any far-reaching federal actions targeted at this safety risk.

That may change soon.

That is because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is exploring the issue and may created updated rules. Different options are on the table, from editing safety warning labels and mandating only certain designs be used to banning the products in some locations all together. The CPSC recently had a public hearing on the matter, where all of the “priorities” for the next two fiscal years were discussed. Bed rails were on the agenda.

Fortunately, one of the leading advocates for nursing home residents–The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care–was on the scene, providing testimony which hopefully will educate the members on the dangers and need for change.

Consumer Voice Testimony
A full copy of the Consumer Voice testimony related to bed rails given on July 10th can be found here.

Robyn Grant, the group’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy explained how a myth about bed rails persists, “that they are a safe, benign and effective means of fall prevention in the elderly.” It is understandable that this perception remains, as the rails seemingly keep individuals from rolling out. But a closer look reveals a myriad of problems. Far from being a safety tool, the rails can be a killer.

Grant noted how the CPSC’s own review identified at least 155 fatalities attributable to the bed rails over less than a ten year period. Over roughly the same period of time there were a staggeringly 37,000 bed rail injuries. Another review from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over a longer period pointed to 480 deaths. And it is important to keep in mind that all of these incidents are likely low estimates, only referring to reported cases.

To tackle the problem the Consumer Voice identified five specific priorities for the CPSC in the coming years. Those recommendations include the creation of new, mandatory standards for bed rails “that reduces the unreasonable risk of asphyxiation and entrapment.” If further study reveals that no design can entirely protect the public, then all adult bed rails may need to be banned. Any rail design that is deemed to pose an unreasonable risk of injury should also be recalled.

In addition, Grant’s testimony argued that there should be an expanded public outreach effort to educate about the dangers of bed rails. At the very least, the public should know about the risks, particularly because the product is actually purchased specifically for safety reasons. As part of the effort, the Consumer Voice urges the creation of a safety guide that can be easily distributed to spread the message

All elder care professionals should follow these CPSC developments closely and be ready to share information about bed rail dangers to friends and family.

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Consumer Voice “Comments” On Proposed Rule Changes