It’s Patient Safety Awareness Week: Are Bedrails a Good Idea or Not?

It’s Patient Safety Awareness Week: Are Bedrails a Good Idea or Not?

Sometimes patients don’t get care they need and it’s a simple matter of missed forms or the wrong pair of crutches. But it can be a more serious issue.

Every year, thousands of individuals in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other medical care facilities across North America fall prey to mishaps. As a result, their safety is compromised.

Why? Because safety procedures either weren’t implemented or they weren’t followed precisely enough and someone got hurt.

One of the issues that presents an on-going debate is how to best use bed rails. They can be very useful at ensuring patients remain in bed- and help them get out of it. But they can also present a deadly danger.

Compressional Asphyxia

How are rails dangerous? Emergencies occur when a patient becomes stuck between their hospital mattress and their bed rails, and they can’t get out. It causes asphyxia and suffocation. The situation poses a common risk for seniors in care, especially if they suffer from dementia and are restless, and as a result, somewhat unable to control their movements.

The risk can also be exacerbated when a new mattress doesn’t fit the older bed frame.

Gaps create real hazards. According to the FDA, between 1985 and 2009, a total of 803 patients in hospitals and nursing homes in the U.S became “caught, trapped, entangled, or strangled in beds with rails”.  480 of these patients actually died as a result. Yes, bed rail use actually killed them.

Related: Here’s How a Tummy Tuck Can Reduce Back Pain and Incontinence

So, how can you stay safe? Be prudent. If you’re loved one is currently being cared for in a facility such as a hospital or a nursing home, talk with staff to determine what kind of bed rail use is best for their situation.

Will they roll out of bed without the rails and break a hip? Or, is there a greater danger when the rails are raised?

To gain insight on the issue, click here for the FDA’s recommendations on what questions to ask your caregiver and how to approach the topic.

Doing things like keeping the bed in the lowest possible position with the wheels locked can help. Reducing any gaps between the mattress and the rails, and placing a mat beside the bed in case there is a fall can also be a good idea and help to improve patient safety.

Get the care you and your loved ones need, by informing yourselves and advocating for what’s best.

Photo credits: Soonthorn Wongsaita/

Facebook Comments