So many awful things can happen when patients and residents, be they elderly or otherwise debilitated, are not attended to properly at nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Residents of nursing homes can be vulnerable to wandering, elopement, as well as dangerous falls. Certain accidents can happen even when residents are not even on their feet, though. Many of these are with bed rails, in which the patient can become caught, injured, or even strangled. According to the Food and Drug Administration, these accidents occur in nursing homes as well as hospitals. From 1985 through 2008, 803 patients have reportedly been “caught, trapped, entangled, or strangled in beds with rails” and 480 of these people have died as a result, with over 100 suffering injuries. While bed rails can help keep patients from falling out, they also pose risks.
Bed rails have posed a serious risk to patients at hospitals, nursing homes and anywhere else they are used for decades. In nursing homes in particular, they are particularly risky because the elderly and infirmed are particularly vulnerable to becoming stuck, injured, or even dying as a result of getting their heads caught and suffering asphyxiation. It is not just risky for the physically challenged, but also for those who perhaps suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Earlier this year, for example, an elderly woman became caught in her bed rails, and staff eventually found her dead. While the use of bed rails has reportedly gone down over the years, they are still used enough to cause concern. Of course, and as stated, they may have benefits in terms of securing patients in their beds, but if used bed rails must be inspected and aligned carefully to prevent patients from becoming injured.
Deadly Bed Rail Accidents
Last year in Minnesota, for another example, a patient got her head caught in a bed rail, and subsequently died. Question remained as to whether this caused the resident’s death. Just recently, a state report states that the rail incident occurred as a result of neglect by the facility staff which “failed to complete a thorough assessment for the resident’s continued ability to safely use” the side rails.” Combined with her lacking “functional abilities,” the resident was highly vulnerable to problems with the railing. The facility’s failed to inspect the bed rails to ensure a proper gap between the rail and the mattress, which had been reduced in height by added padding to the mattress. The report on the incident also stated that the patient, who herself had worked as an elder home nurse decades earlier, had already been suffering late-stage Alzheimer’s Disease, which likely means that the incident must have even been more confusing and upsetting to her. An added complication in terms of the aftermath of the incident is that the family signed a death certificate that a bone infection caused the resident’s death while no autopsy was ordered. Nevertheless, it is important to note how negligence here led to a bed rail incident.
In the unfortunate event of an injury or death as a result of faulty equipment in a nursing home, such as bed rails, skilled and knowledgeable counsel is necessary for victims and their families to vindicate their rights. Nursing homes have an obligation to ensure things like bed rails, if used, are fitted appropriately, and that in general patients are checked on routinely to ensure they are safe and sound. Anything less may be negligence.
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