Bed rails in nursing homes have reportedly led to 150 fatalities between 2003 and May of this year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of these result from older patients, many of whom might suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, apparently becoming confused and getting trapped between the rail and the mattress. 36,000 incidents required a patient to go to an emergency room for treatment in the above mentioned time period.
These types of deaths have caused grave concern among safety advocates and officials with the Food and Drug Administration, who figure that the number of deaths is actually much greater due to bed rails often not being listed as a cause of death. Yet there are currently not any federal regulations pertaining to bed rails.
Part of the reason has to do with the argument over whether the rails should be classified as a medical device or not. If they are, then they would fall under the purview of the FDA, but if not, the CPSC would hold sway over the devices. In 1995, the FDA warned hospitals and care facilities of certain dangers associated with the bed rails, but a lack of support in Congress and among manufacturers led to no rules being developed. Voluntary guidelines came out in 2006.
If you or an elderly loved one are in a care facility, make sure to speak with an administrator or case worker about the danger of bed rails. Doing so can prevent a potential calamity.