Bed rails are a well-known danger. While intended to protect vulnerable medical patients and nursing home resident from falls, in reality these rails usually cause more harm than they prevent. That is because some residents are prone to roll into the rail and get caught between it and the mattress. Depending on exactly how it occurs, the senior can become trapped, often being smothered without the ability to breathe. The risks are highest for residents with cognitive difficulties as well as physical ailments, including residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Surprisingly, even with these known dangers, the use of unsafe bed rails persist. In fact, even though federal regulators have known about the dangers for years, little has been done to improve standards and ensure unnecessary deaths and injuries are prevented. Unique political pressures and administrative confusion has led to stalemate. In the meantime hundreds of nursing home residents and medical patients have been injured. The exact toll taken by these bed rail accidents is unclear, because there is not a universal record-keeping function to track each time an injury is caused in whole or in part by a bed rail.
Fighting Back for Safety
Fortunately, momentum for change seems to be building among advocates and all those who care about resident safety. These advocates are calling on federal policymakers to stand up and issue clear standards that all bed rail manufacturers must follow. In addition, there is a call for a ban on use of current models, which present high risks of harm. Taken together, the shift would be an important safety change, sparing hundreds of patients and their families the heartache of dealing with the aftermath of a preventable bed rail injury.
Those who are interested in voicing their support for improved bed rail standards are encouraged to visit this page from the Consumer Voice. Once there you can sign and share a petition which calls on federal policymakers to take the necessary steps to keep our seniors safe.
As the petition reminds us: “In this country we’ve worked hard to keep vulnerable children safe in bed. Why can’t we do the same for the vulnerable elderly?”
The fight for better adult bed rails is a classic example of the constant struggle between safety and big business products. The sad reality is that far too many companies are focused on profits above all else–even consumer safety. Obviously there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of profit. But the striving to make money in business should not become such an overriding goal that injury and death is pushed under the rug, downplayed, or ignored.
On so many occasions in the past, it is the use of the civil justice system and the demands of those hurt which has spurred real change. Too many business refuse to do anything that might affect their bottom line until they are forced to. Fortunately, the civil justice system is one of the few ways that private parties can seek to actually force the change. In conjunction with the efforts of government lobbyists for consumers, real change can often be made.
The nursing home lawyers at our firm urge those in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois to be on the lookout for dangers to senior loved ones, including bed rails. If harm ever results, be sure to demand full legal redress and accountability.
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