While bed rails can protect nursing home residents from falling out of bed, bed rail 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.
The injury attorneys at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you have significant experience in helping clients who have been a victim of bed rail entrapment. Our offices are conveniently located in nearby Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person at our nearby offices, over the phone, or video call. You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.
By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like finding a nearby doctor who can help you or recommending you to temporary or long-term care options. You and your family’s’ safety and health are our top concern, and even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people. Our familiarity with the local Phoenix courts makes us confident that we can help you get the best settlement possible.
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Additionally, take a look at our Nursing Home Glossary– an index of important words you need to know in a nursing home abuse case and their definitions.
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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.
What is a Bed Rail?
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.
Why Are Bed Rails Used by Nursing Homes?
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.
What is Bed Rail Entrapment?
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:
- Zone 1: Within the bed rail
- Zone 2: Under the bed rail, between the rail supports or next to a single rail support
- Zone 3: Between the rail and the mattress
- Zone 4: Under the rail at the ends of the rail
- Zone 5: Between split bed rails
- Zone 6: Between the end of the rail and the head or foot board of the bed
- Zone 7: Between the end of the mattress and the head or foot board
These injuries are more likely to happen when the bed rail isn’t being used properly, typically:
- If the rail is too loose
- If the rail doesn’t fit the resident’s bed correctly
- If the mattress is not a size recommended for use with rails
Which Residents are at Greatest Risk?
Nursing home or long term care residents that suffer from the following conditions are at more risk of entrapment:
- Uncontrolled body movement
- Urinary tract infections
- Fecal impactions
This is in part because residents with these conditions are typically frail and cannot properly control their bodily movements while in bed.
What Kind of Injuries May Occur with Bed Rail Entrapment?
The most common injuries associated with entrapment are:
- Skin injuries
In severe cases when a resident is trapped for a sustained period of time residents have died following entrapment.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Bed Rail Entrapment Accidents?
In the context of personal injury, a nursing home facility may be liable for a resident’s death as a result of rail entrapment.
Risk of Using a Bed Rail
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.
Restraint or Assistive Device
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:
- Is a partial rail and
- Allows a resident to enter and exit the bed independently.
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:
- The medical needs to the resident that require use of the rails
- Why the resident would benefit from use of rails and the likelihood of success
- The resident’s risk from use of the rails and how those risks will be handled by the nursing home or long term care facility’s staff
- What alternatives were provided to resident that failed to meet the resident’s needs, and alternatives considered, but not attempted, because they would be inappropriate for the resident
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.
Staff Training Using Bed Rails
If it’s determined that a resident is a candidate for a rail, the staff must be trained on how to:
- Install the rails properly to prevent entrapment
- Know how to identify issues if they arise once the rails are installed
Proper installation of the bed rails includes the following:
- Selecting the appropriate rail for the size, age and weight of resident
- If a rail does not properly fit a bed and/or mattress, contacting the manufacturer of the bed rail so that the installation is proper
- Training in proper maintenance of the rail
- Training in proper maintenance of the bed and mattress
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.
Legal Help with Bed Rail Cases
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.
Our team of abuse attorneys is dedicated to seeking damages on behalf of those family members who are being abused and help you find better accommodations for them in the nearby area. We’ve worked on a number of nursing home abuse cases previously in your area and take the time to understand the family’s concerns as well as the situation they believe their loved one is in.
At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you, we have more than 15 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their and their loved one’s personal injuries, including those from bed rail entrapment in the Phoenix area. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office, conveniently located near you.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of bed rail entrapment, contact Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in nearby Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in your area including Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.