When a loved one requires care, advocating for good and safe care becomes a crucial part of the journey. Sometimes, your loved one’s own bed can cause unintended injury or even death. Bed rails are intended to keep people safer but they have actually proven to be a safety risk and have caused harm and even death to many. They are often used to prevent an elderly person from falling out of bed or to deter someone with dementia from getting out of bed and wandering during the night. However, they can cause more harm than good. One major problem has been strangulation or asphyxiation. This can occur if the person slips between the rail and the mattress and becomes stuck there. They may be too weak or confused to reposition themselves and then can easily suffocate if the mattress is pressed against their chest. Another issue is that elders or those with dementia may become confused and try to climb over the rail causing them to fall and sustain a serious injury.
On April 25, 2013 a petition was filed with the Consumer Product Safety Commission urging the agency to protect consumers against the dangers of bed rails. The petition addresses the safety of the elderly and those with disabilities by advocating for a ban on adult portable bed rails. If the ban is not accepted, they are asking for mandatory safety standards. The petition can be viewed here: http://www.theconsumervoice.org/sites/default/files/BedRailPetitionApril25.pdf
There are also other alternatives to bed rails that may be used in an effort to prevent falls. The Consumer Voice, an advocates group, lists the following suggestions:
1) Lowering the bed as near to the floor as possible. An adjustable height bed can go very low to the floor for sleeping and be raised for transfers and care.
2) Placing non-slip mattress pads or other cushioning by the side of the bed to cushion any fall that might occur.
3) Using a secured vertical pole to assist in getting in and out of bed.
4) Using a bed trapeze to help reposition while in bed and to get in and out of bed.
For more information from The Consumer Voice regarding the dangers of bed rails for the elderly please visit: http://www.theconsumervoice.org/advocate/bed-rails