While bed rails can protect nursing home residents from falling out of bed, entrapment injuries are unfortunately far too common.
Nursing homes and long term care facilities must use rails with extreme caution and follow set procedures to ensure residents safety.
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This article examines how Arizona nursing homes should be using bed rails, the types of injuries that can happen if they’re mis-used and what legal recourse you have if something goes wrong.
A bed rail is a device that is used on the sides of beds, often in nursing home or long term care facility settings.
They are made out of either plastic or metal and typically run half or the entire length of the bed.
Bed rails are used for nursing home residents that have trouble moving independently. They are typically used in nursing home and long term care facility settings so residents can use them to assist with repositioning in bed, transferring out of the bed, or prevent the resident from falling out of bed.
However, careful consideration should be given by the nursing home before adding a rail to a nursing home resident’s care plan.
At no point should they be used by staff as a substitute for personal monitoring of residents. This is especially true for residents at a high risk of entrapment.
Bed rails may only be used by nursing home or long term care facilities if a resident’s symptoms warrant their use. Those symptoms must be documented properly in the resident’s file, and the symptoms must be reassessed by the staff members on a regular basis.
A physician’s order is required for use of a bed rail. The nursing staff may not independently decide a resident is in need of a rail.
The most common injury that occurs from a resident using a rail is entrapment.
This happens when a resident’s head, chest or neck becomes lodged in the tight space around the bed and the rail.
The problem is that there are gaps between the rails, which can cause a resident’s head, chest or neck to become lodged in the rail.
Bed rail entrapment occurs when a nursing home resident becomes caught, stuck, wedged or trapped between one of seven “zones” of a rail:
These injuries are more likely to happen when the bed rail isn’t being used properly, typically:
Nursing home or long term care residents that suffer from the following conditions are at more risk of entrapment:
This is in part because residents with these conditions are typically frail and cannot properly control their bodily movements while in bed.
The most common injuries associated with entrapment are:
In severe cases when a resident is trapped for a sustained period of time residents have died following entrapment.
In the context of personal injury, a nursing home facility may be liable for a resident’s death as a result of rail entrapment.
By admitting a resident to its facility, the nursing home is required to adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.
This factor is key in bed rail entrapment cases. A nursing home may defend itself in an entrapment injury or death by arguing that the injury or death due to the bed rail was not foreseeable. This is false.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized that bed rail entrapment in nursing home settings has been and continues to be a serious issue for over twenty years.
The FDA has issued numerous bulletins on the use of bed rails and detailing the risks associated with using them in a nursing home setting. A nursing home or long term care facility should not, and cannot, use the defense that it did not know of the risks of bed rails with elderly residents.
Another legal issue that may arise in a bed rail entrapment case is whether or not the rail was used as a restraint or assistive device.
A bed rail is not considered a restraint if it:
If a bed rail does not meet both of these criteria, then it is being utilized by the nursing home or long term care facility as a restraint.
If the nursing home determines that a rail must be used as a restraint, then informed consent must be obtained by the proper representative of the resident.
A consent form must be obtained from the nursing home or long term care facility from the representative of the resident who is in charge of making legal decisions for the resident. The consent form must include the following:
If a consent form is obtained and rails are used for a resident, then ongoing assessment of the resident must be completed by the staff to determine if the resident continually requires their use.
The use of bed rails does not have to be permanent and reassessment by staff and doctors must be done on a continuous basis.
If it’s determined that a resident is a candidate for a rail, the staff must be trained on how to:
Proper installation of the bed rails includes the following:
If you suspect that your loved one was injured as a result of bed rail entrapment, it is important to contact a nursing home abuse attorney immediately.
If your loved one has suffered a nasty injury or died using a bed rail then it’s likely you’ll want the incident to be properly investigated.
Speaking to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help ensure this happens. If the nursing home has been negligent or not followed the right procedures to protect your loved one, then you could also have the option to take further legal action.
Speak to the team at Thompson Law for a free, no obligation review of your case today.
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