A report recently released by a state health department revealed the death of a prominent Pennsylvania businessman in a nursing home in September was caused by strangulation as a result of his bed rails. The nursing home was cited by the health department for safety deficiencies related to the death. Investigators with the department determined the facility failed to identify the hazard created by using the side rails that ultimately resulted in this man’s death. He reportedly suffered from the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and was largely immobile too. He was discovered by a nursing assistant around 11:30 p.m. one night, not breathing, with his body on the floor and his neck between the mattress and the side rail of the bed.
The health department took note of the fact that side rails are only supposed to be used to assist in helping a patient re-position himself when no other reasonable alternatives are identified. Even then, facilities are supposed to use reasonable precautions when they are being used. The facility removed all bed rails it had been using at the time shortly after decedent was discovered.
This is not a new problem. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has long been tracking injuries and deaths related to bed rail entrapment and strangulation in nursing homes. The agency reports that even when bed rails are properly designed to lower the potential risk of falls or entrapment, they still present a danger to certain people, namely those with some form of dementia (as they are at greater risk of a fall when they try to get out of bed, despite something being in their way). The agency reported that between 1985 and 2013 (the most recent period for which it conducted the analysis), there were 531 rail-related deaths. Continue reading →