Nursing Home Strangulation and Suffocation Injury
Nursing home bed safety rails are inherently hazardous. According to the FDA there was over 900 incidents where patients and residents were entrapped, entangled or strangled by bed rails between 1985 and 2013. 531 deaths resulted and 200 cases resulted in what is known as near misses where nursing home staff needed to come to the aid of the trapped resident to prevent injury.
Bed rail entrapment, strangulation and suffocation occurs when a resident falls into the space between the bed rail and the mattress. Most nursing home residents are fragile and weak and therefore lack the strength pull their body out of the space between the mattress and bed rail if they fall in.
Nursing homes are required to assess residents for the risk of bed rail entrapment before bed rails are installed. Each nursing home also needs to have policies and procedures in place for the implementation, assessment, and reassessment of the use of bed safety rails.
Nursing homes must first get consent from the resident or the resident’s representative before even installing the bed rails. In order for someone to give proper consent they need to be aware of all the risks and benefits of the bed rails. A resident with dementia or cognitive deficits likely does not have the mentally capacity to give consent.
Nursing homes are also required to create and keep certain paperwork documenting that proper installation, use, and maintenance of bed rails occurred. The paperwork needs to show the nursing home installed and maintained the bed rails in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and specifications. Paperwork also needs to show that the nursing home conducted routine inspections of side rails in order to identify any bed rail entrapment risks.
Federal Laws on Bed Rails
Federal laws have been enacted to specifically protect nursing home resident from injuries caused by hazardous bed safety rails. Federal law 483.25 requires nursing homes to keep the facility free of accident hazards. Bed rails have been recognized as an accident hazard and nursing homes are on notice that they need to be proactive in preventing bed rail accidents and injuries.
Under Federal Law 483.25 (d)(1)(n)(1)-(3)(n) titled Bed Rails, every nursing home must first exhaust all appropriate alternatives prior to installing and using bed rails. There are alternatives that are safer than bed rails and nursing homes must identify and implement these safer alternatives before turning to bed rail use. In the event that bed side rails are used, the nursing home must ensure correct installation, use, and maintenance of the bed rails, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Determining if the resident is at risk of bed side rail entrapment before they are installed;
- Informing the resident or the resident’s representative of the potential benefits and risks of bed rails in order to obtain their consent before they are installed;
- Making sure the bed and mattress’ size and dimensions are compatible with the resident’s size and weight;
- Installing and maintaining bed rails in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and recommendations.
Federal law 483.90 (c)(3) also requires nursing homes to conduct regular inspections of all bed frames, mattresses, and bed rails as part of a maintenance program that needs to be implemented to identify possible entrapment risks. Nursing homes must make sure the bed rails, mattress, and bed frame are compatible especially if the bed side rails and mattresses are bought in used condition or bought separately from the bed frame.
For the most part, bed rail strangulation and suffocation injuries are preventable. It is a very big red flag if there is a bed rail strangulation, suffocation or fall injury and the nursing home is not able to produce paperwork showing they followed proper bed rail safety protocol.
Why You Need a Lawyer If Your Loved One Was Injured in a Nursing Home Bed Rail Injury
If A loved one died because of a due to a bed rail injury that you believe happened because of the nursing home facility’s failure to implement protocol or because of the facility’s general negligence, contact our law firm today to schedule you free, no-obligation legal consultation.
With over 35 years of legal experience, we can help you explore options that may be available to you.
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