There is a long record of bedrail injuries and deaths in the elderly population. Elderly care patients incur bedrail injuries when they become lodged and stuck into bedrails. The risk of bedrail injuries is also higher for elderly patients with incapacitating physical and mental conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration reported that since 1985 nearly a thousand elderly care patients were caught, trapped, or entangled in the bedrails of their hospital beds. This includes over 500 bedrail injuries that led to death. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has also reported 160 incidents of bedrail injuries including 155 fatalities between the years of 2003 and 2012.
According to research from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, elderly patients have died after the neck or chest is compressed between the rail and bed. In this situation, elderly care patients are not even able to call out for help because all of the air is squeezed out of their lungs; making bedrail injuries a serious cause for concern.
Bedrail Injuries from Manufacturing
Many experts have stated that bedrail injuries are the result of a manufacturing error affecting how bedrails are set up. These experts from numerous organizations have stated that it is necessary to perform safety checks on the beds once they have bedrails installed onto them. Despite knowledge of bedrail injuries, these products were not recalled or taken off the market. This is largely because bedrail injuries and deaths are not specifically tracked by authorities.
The reason why many elderly care patients have incurred bedrail injuries is because of dangerous gaps that are left between the edges of the bed, the headboard, and bedrails. If the distance between parts of the bed and the bedrails is large enough then it is possible for an elderly care patient to become injured. This is especially a risk for portable bedrails since these usually do not fit well onto the sides of a bed.
Bedrail Injuries at Nursing Homes
Nursing homes and hospitals are high risk facilities for bedrail injuries. Nursing homes in particular tend to have the highest risk associated since the elderly are most prone to bedrail injuries. Both state and federal regulators have cited nursing care facilities for putting elderly care patients at risk of bedrail injuries from entrapment and suffocation. These nursing homes were cited for failure to protect against the risk of bedrail injuries.
By federal law, bedrails must meet specific safety requirements because of the risk of bedrail injuries. These regulations are stricter for bedrails made for young children, however, elderly care patients are actually more at risk of sustaining bedrail injuries. There are many instances of nursing care discovering an elderly care patient has become trapped and injured from bedrail dysfunction. Statistics of child fatalities from bedrail injuries are not as critical those associated with the elderly.
FDA Involvement with Bedrail Injuries
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one of the organizations involved with handling safety concerns regarding bedrail injuries. Although there is a dispute over whether this a concern for the FDA or the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), both agencies have become involved with the problem. The problem stems from the argument of whether bedrails qualify as a medical device or a consumer product.
Both the FDA and CPSC have known about bedrail injuries for decades but neither had actually done anything to address the problem. Both organizations knew there were considerable statistics regarding bedrail injuries. It was only after being pursued by family members of victims that the organizations decided to investigate the matter.
The FDA has already listed safety warnings about bedrails in the middle of the 1990s. However, these warnings were not sufficient to avoid further bedrail injuries. The FDA did not decide to require safety labels warning consumers and distributors about risks to health from bedrails. Since the guidelines that were offered were only voluntary, bedrail injuries continue to be a problem for the elderly.
“Bedrail Memorandum.” Consumer Product Safety Commission. N.p., 11 Oct 2012. Web. 9 Sep 2013. <http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/133466/adultbedrail.pdf>.
Deardorff, Julie. “Bed rails for elderly, their risks long known, face relative lack of scrutiny.” Chicago Tribune. N.p., 11 Jul 2013. Web. 9 Sep 2013. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-07-11/news/ct-met-bed-rail-safety-20130707_1_rails-bed-medical-devices>.
Nixon, Ron. “After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails.” New York Times. N.p., 25 Nov 2012. Web. 9 Sep 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/health/after-dozens-of-deaths-inquiry-into-bed-rails.html?adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1354302382-QX9iepl5JlOpC OIBfWGAA&_r=1&>.