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Nursing home bed rails investigated after years of deaths, part 1

For most people in Albany, putting a loved one in a nursing home is not an ideal situation. Whether it is a full-care facility or an assisted living home, family members may feel guilty or upset that they are unable to care for elderly parents and relatives on their own. In the end, however, most people in nursing homes need the care and attention that only round-the-clock staff at a nursing home can provide. But this also means that it is an extremely serious violation when negligent nursing home employees fail to take proper care of their patients or fail to prevent them from injuring themselves.

After one woman's mother died because nursing home staff failed to warn her and her father that her mother's bed rails could be dangerous, she has worked hard for a federal investigation into nursing home bed rails. The rails are designed to restrain patients and keep them from rolling out of bed, but they are also an extremely common cause of injuries and death among older adults.

Between 2003 and May 2012, more than 36,000 individuals were sent to the emergency room with serious bed rail injuries. Of that 36,000, a majority of the injured people were older, though it is not known if they were all in nursing homes at the time of their injuries. During the same time frame, 150 people died after they were trapped in or suffocated by their bed rails.

This is not a new phenomenon, however. The federal Food and Drug Administration first issued warnings about bed railings in 1995, but neither the FDA nor the Consumer Product Safety Commission have ordered bed railing manufacturers to affix safety labels on their products. Ultimately, however, nursing homes were officially made aware of the dangers in 2006 when the FDA issued voluntary guidelines to nursing homes.

The woman who lost her mother has filed a lawsuit against the assisted living home, saying the staff failed to warn her father about the dangers of bed rails, despite the fact that it recommended he buy them for his wife.

Source: The New York Times, "After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails," Ron Nixon, Nov. 25, 2012

Discover more about patient restraints and negligent nursing home employees by visiting our website.

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