This week, the issue was highlighted in the New York Times in an article that details the bed rail problems that have occurred across the nation for almost two decades. Bed rails are placed on hospital beds and nursing homes beds to assist patients in getting up and also to prevent them from rolling out of bed while sleeping.
Between 2003 and 2012, at least 150 elderly Americans died as a result of becoming trapped in dangerous bed rails. additionally, about 4,000 elderly people are treated each year for bed rail-related injuries.These rails are especially a problem for people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's, as they often become confused and get caught between the mattress and the rail. These types of rails can provide necessary safety for elderly patients, as they are designed to do , but there are particular problems with older devices and also with mixing different products. If the mattress, rails, and frame all come from different manufacturers, you get dangerous gaps when things don't fit smoothly together, exacerbating the problem.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was aware of this bed rail problem as early as 1995, but never forced manufacturers to include warnings because of heavy industry pressure. The government also never recalled any of the bed rails, even those that caused numerous deaths. Instead, they opted for a "safety alertsent to nursing homes and home health care companies. Only in 2006 did the industry get "voluntary guidelines,including recommendations on size limits for gaps between the mattress and the rail, but which are still a long way from keeping our older Americans safe. In 2011 alone, 27 people died unnecessarily from a bed rail accident.
Politics has also made this problem harder to solve, as there is a debate as to whether bed rails are a medical product or a consumer product. The regulatory body for consumer products, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has long claimed it does not cover bed rails. Moreover, the FDA claims it depends on what the manufacturers market the bed rails as, if they claim medical benefits explicitly, such as dementia patients not rolling out of bed, or not. This is a complication that matters not at all to the families of the deceased victims, or of those injured by bed rail accidents.
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