Articles Posted in Bedrails

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Last week the Star-Telegram released a helpful new article that reiterates the potential danger of bed rails.

Bed Rail Deaths

The article points to several different incidents to hammer home the point that real lives are lost because of these products. For example, the story of an 81-year old woman was shared. Suffering from dementia, her family had rails installed on her bed under the assumption that they were keeping her safe. However, only a few weeks after adding them, the senior’s neck became caught in the rails. She was not found in time, and she suffocated to death.

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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.

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While seemingly a safety product, advocates have long-known of the hidden danger lurking with use of bed rails. These products purport to prevent a vulnerable medical patient or nursing home resident from falling off a bed. But bed rails do much more than that–they also frequently entrap residents, smothering them, and, sometimes, causing serious injury or death.

National attention was focused on the bed rail problem last year in a high-profile New York Times article on the situation. The story noted how dozens of deaths have been reported in recent years from bed rails, and that does not count the many more that may not have been reported to officials.

The article shared the advocacy of one woman who has been fighting for changes to prevent these bed rail accidents following the tragic passing of her mother. Her 81-year old mother died in a nursing home after her neck was caught in a bed rail.

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Seniors in nursing homes face a mountain of physical, mental, and emotional challenges each and every day. That is why caregivers are there to provide around-the-clock support. On one hand, many resident’s own health is troubling, requiring special equipment to breathe, move, and otherwise complete daily tasks. On top of that, even simple functions–like laying in bed for a night’s sleep–come with injury risks that healthier community members do not face.

One might think that nothing could go wrong when a senior resident is lying in bed. That must be the safest place for them, right? They avoid the risks of wandering or altercations, can be monitored easily by aides, and otherwise do not face any dangers. Not quite. For one thing, a roll off the bed could prove fatal for a resident with frail bones and weaker recovery systems. To prevent falls, many facilities use “bed rails.” These are metal bars placed on the sides of beds to prevent rolling off. But over the past few years, more and more question marks have been raised about the inherent dangers that these rails themselves pose for seniors.

All of this has led many activists to push for stricter standards on the design, manufacture, and use of these rails. Recently, many of those activists, including our team of nursing home neglect lawyers in Illinois, signed a petition urging more action by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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For several years we have discussed the ever-present (but little known) risks posed by bed rails. Patients in hospitals, nursing homes residents, and those with special beds at home can very easily become injured as a result of these metal rails placed on the sides of their bed. These objects are actually intended to improve safety, but when not designed properly or used incorrectly, they may lead to serious harm–even death. Far too many local seniors in long-term care facilities have been harmed as a result of these rails. Failure to account for the risks may be an example of nursing home neglect.

While it has been a hard fight to raise awareness of these risks, some advocates have been working tirelessly to ensure community members know of the harm. Recently, those efforts attracted even larger national attention when five sitting U.S. Senators wrote a letter to the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), urging that they take action to minimize the harm that can result from these rails.

The Bed Rail Letter

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The New York Times published a story recently that will hopefully raise awareness of an issue that has been on the radar of senior safety advocates for years: bed rails. While seemingly innocuous and intended to act as a safety device themselves, bed rails actually increase the risk of harm to those using them. Many seniors with sickness or disabilities are placed in beds with these rails, and some of them suffer serious injury (even death) as a result.

The article shared the heartbreaking story that is similar to experiences by many others. A family made the heartbreaking choice to move their elderly mother into an assisted living facility as she began showing more and more signs of dementia. The move was to protect her, to prevent her from wandering and to ensure that she had the care she needed to stay safe in her golden years. However, instead of providing additional safety, the move ultimatey killed her. Within a few months she was found dead–strangled by the rails that we placed on her bed in the home.

Raising Awareness of Nursing Home Bed Rail Deaths

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Most community members appreciate that certain products can be dangerous. We have all heard stories of major recalls involving many different things, from cars and trucks to children’s toys and cleaning products. However, even though we know products can be defective or dangerous, we still use them, because it is simply impossible to know for certain whether any indiviual product is defective. We have to rely on the standards of those making the items and the regulators tasked with ensuring overly dangerous materials are kept out of the stream of commerce.

Sadly, the product liability attorneys at our firm know that even with safety standards in place, dangerous products still make it to the market and affect communty members nearly every day. A large part of the work of legal professionals in this field invovles helping those hurt by those products that slip through the cracks, and working to ensure systematically harmful products are no longer available to hurt unsuspecting residents.

The Dangers of Bed Rails in Nursing Homes

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The American Association for Justice’s new comprehensive new report entitled, “Standing Up For Seniors: How the Civil Justice System Protects Elderly Americans” includes discussion of a little known problem that occurs with startling frequency: bed rail deaths.

Hundreds of our vulnerable seniors have been killed in connection with the bed rails placed on the sides of their sleeping spot. Residents can become trapped between the rails, under them, or in the gaps between the rail and mattress. Part of the problem has to do with poor design. Many manufacturers of these products have ignored evidence that proves the risks they pose. Few design changes have been made to prevent these deaths.

Besides the design problems, however, nursing homes often overuse bed rails. Many experts admit that the rails are commonly unnecessary and only worsen problematic falls. Residents offer suffer increased injuries when attempting to get in and out of bed over the top of the rails

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The New York Times recently published an expose that questions whether beds in nursing homes are safe for nursing home residents. They discussed the death of one patient who found with his neck entrapped between the mattress and the bedrail. The patient wrongfully died from asphyxiation. The family filed a nursing home neglect lawsuit against the hospice organization, the manufacturer of the bed and the medical equipment vendor.

While bedrails are supposed to be safety devices, experts believe that they oftentimes create more problems than they solve. Rails decrease a patient’s risk of falling by 10 to 15 percent, yet they increase the risk of injury by about 20 percent. This happens when confused or demented patients who try to climb over the rails fall from a lower level and land on their knees or legs. These patients are then apt to fall further and strike their heads. However, the biggest danger is entrapment. Nursing home residents can get stuck within the rails or between the rail and the mattress. The FDA had tallied 480 deaths and 138 injuries from nursing home bedrail entrapment incidents. A resident can roll into the slot next to the rail, which slides the mattress to the opposite side. The patient will drop to the gap causing the mattress to press against his/her chest making it impossible to breathe.

The Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti recently reached a settlement in a nursing home bedrail entrapment death. The victim’s family was awarded $570,000 in the case. To read about this incident of nursing home neglect in Chicago follow the hyperlink.

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Levin and Perconti has reached a settlement with a south suburban nursing home after a victim died when her neck became entrapped between her bedrail and mattress at the nursing home. Attorneys Steven Levin and Michael Bonamarte represented the family and reached a $570,000 settlement for the adult grandchildren of a 99-year-old resident. The client’s grandmother was admitted to the facility on December 6, 2007, after being hospitalized with seizures. According to the nursing home lawyers, bedrails were placed on her bed upon admittance. On January 27, 2008 a nurse was making her nightly rounds and discovered the client’s grandmother on the floor next to her bed with her head entrapped between the bedrail and mattress. While healthcare professionals tried to revive her, her injuries were too severe and she died hours later. The autopsy confirmed that the client’s grandmother died from compressional asphyxia when her neck became entrapped between the bedrail and mattress. The compression from the entrapment was so severe that in addition to cutting off her oxygen supply, it fractured a bone in her neck. The coroner stated that her death was similar to strangulation or hanging. The nursing home lawyers argued that the nursing home placed her in danger of serious harm by using bedrails. Nursing home lawyer Michael Bonamarte stated that it was a terrifying way to die and noted that this could easily be avoided. Chicago lawyer Steven Levin added that the nursing home failed to consult the decedent’s family members regarding the use of bedrails. After the wrongful death, the Illinois Department of Public Health cited the facility for improper nursing care and resident injury, fining them $10,000.