Bedrail Entrapment Accidents: Hidden Nursing Home Hazards


May 21, 2014

There are many types of hazards, neglect and abuse that can result in severe injuries, debilitating illness or even the wrongful death of a nursing home resident. These dangers include understaffing, physical assaults, falls, lack of nutrition/hydration, over-medication and more. Nursing home beds can be one of the most dangerous hazards for elderly nursing home residents, but they often rouse little concern because the danger is not obvious. Because many nursing home residents have compromised mental or physical skills, railings designed to protect residents from falling out of the bed can lead to a resident becoming entrapped between the mattress and the railing. These nursing home bedrail entrapment accidents can result in suffocation, causing brain injury and even wrongful death.

Bed rails are supposed to assist those receiving care in a skilled nursing facility by preventing dangerous tumbles from the bed and by providing a means for residents to pull their bodies into an upright sitting position. Elderly residents of nursing homes that suffer from cognitive impairment because of Alzheimer's disease or dementia are more prone to be injured or die in a bed guardrail entrapment accident.

There are dozens of deaths per year reported in nursing homes caused by bed-rail suffocation. However, the director of the FDA's Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories suggests that the numbers are much higher because until recently many administrators of nursing homes and hospitals were unaware of their obligation to report this type of entrapment-related fatality. In other cases, facilities decline to report bed-rail entrapment accidents because they are worried about potential civil liability according to the agency director.

Several years ago, the FDA enacted guidelines to prevent these types of accidents, but elderly residents continue to be smothered between bed mattresses and railings in nursing homes across the U.S. The issue can occur in a variety of ways, but often the problem is that the facility will use a mattress, frame and railing that are constructed by different companies so that they do not fit together properly. Many such accidents can be prevented when disparate parts are not used in assembling the beds, and the beds are assembled properly.

There are steps families can take to reduce the risk that their loved one will get lodged between the railing and the mattress. Experts advise families to examine the bed mattress to assess whether there is a gap between the side of the mattress and railing where a body could become trapped. When making this assessment, family members should push the mattress as far as possible against the other railing to assess the maximum possible gap that might occur if the mattress were to shift.

While you may not think that a nursing home would cover up this type of accident to avoid liability in a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit, you should consider the case of Frances Flynn. Her son got a call in the middle of the night indicating that his mother "passed away during the night." The son thought his mom had passed peacefully because he was not provided any other information. The son only learned that he had not been told the full story when he received a call from the funeral director who indicated that his mom's body had to be transferred to the coroner so that an autopsy could be conducted because she did not die a normal death. The autopsy later revealed she died of sudden cardiac arrest when she became entrapped against the bed guardrails and panicked.

About 350 bedrail-related deaths have been reported to the FDA since 1995. Thirty-five deaths were reported in the last year and a half.

If your elderly loved one has been injured in a guardrail entrapment accident or suffers another form of elder abuse or nursing home neglect, your family member may have a right to seek financial compensation. Our Georgia Nursing Home Neglect Attorneys at Montlick and Associates represent those who are injured because of the negligent care provided by nursing homes throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

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