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Bed safety rails injure and kill thousands in nursing homes

Parents and family members do all they can to make sure that the products their baby is exposed to are safe. This includes cribs, which have undergone substantial regulation in recent years to prevent babies and toddlers from getting trapped and suffocating.

People don't always realize it, but the elderly are in need of protection in much the same way. Because they may suffer from limited mobility and/or cognitive impairments, they are also susceptible to injury and death from products that would seem safe to younger adults. Sadly, over the past few decades, thousands of elderly Americans have been injured or killed because of portable safety rails that are meant to keep them from falling out of bed.

One such case occurred at a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2011. An 88-year-old man was found dead by a nurse. He was strangled when his upper body and right shoulder became wedged between the mattress and the bedrail.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, adult portable bedrail injuries were responsible for approximately 37,000 emergency room visits and 155 deaths between 2003 and 2012. Many of these accidents occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and 80 percent of victims were above age 60.

These victims are injured or killed in much the same way as infants trapped by dangerous cribs. Sadly, these tragedies receive much less attention and outrage than ones involving young children. In some cases, deaths are erroneously attributed to causes other than a dangerous bedrail.

If you have a family member or loved one in a nursing home or similar facility, please take the time to educate yourself about these dangerous devices. A product designed to prevent one type of accident should not be used if it significantly increases the risk of an even more dangerous fate.

Source: Miami Herald, “As feds ponder solutions, bedrails pose deadly hazard to frail, elderly, mentally impaired,” Lindsay Wise, Oct. 8, 2013

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