Bed rails are one of the most essential components in a bed system. It keeps our elderly loved ones on their bed and helps prevent them from rolling off.
However, there has been a lot of discussion about whether bed rails are safe. Studies show that patients suffer from serious injuries, or worse, death, because of bed rails.
Let’s discuss everything you need to know about bed rails. We aim to give you a blow-by-blow of the benefits and risks of using a bed rail.
Are Bed Rails Safe for Elderly?
One of the common questions people ask is, “Are bed rails safe?” With numerous cases of deaths and injuries, we can’t help but wonder if buying bed rail products is a good choice.
Advantages of Bed Rails for Elderly People
Based on what we’ve discovered, one of the main benefits of bed rails is to prevent elderly persons from falling out of bed.
This usually happens when a person is sleeping on their bed and suddenly rolls off. As a result, this could startle the patient from their sleep.
Worse, they could wake up with an injury like some scrapes on their skin and a few broken bones.
Another advantage is that bed rails can assist seniors. It helps patients shift their position on the mattress without assistance. At the same time, the bed rails can even help them sit up or stand.
This gives them a sense of independence, which is crucial for our elderly loved ones.
Safety Concerns and Potential Risks
There are also associated risks involved with bed rails. This affects bed rail usage in nursing homes and its enjoyment.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, no less, report that bed rails can cause rail-related injuries and even death.
Patients could get trapped in between the metal bed rails. A patient could get one of their body parts stuck between the rails and get an injury in the process.
In some cases, a kid could get their head stuck in between the rails. This usually happens when the mattress is too small for the bed frame.
Patients can slip in between the gaps and get themselves stuck and suffocate.
It’s also not advisable to use bed rails on dementia patients. They tend to get restless and attempt to jump off their mattresses. As a result, they’re at a higher risk of having a serious injury in nursing homes.
Nevertheless, if using bed rails is unavoidable, make sure they’re installed and raised properly. It must support the patient’s weight when they lean on it.
Understanding Fall Hazards While Using Bed Rails
Nursing homes and hospitals must understand the fall hazards associated with bed rails. Most often than not, these fall hazards are highly avoidable.
You should be in the clear as long as you observe proper monitoring and install the safety rails properly.
This is crucial for people dealing with seniors in the workplace. They’ll be able to put their patients in bed safely.
Common Causes of Bed Rail-Related Injuries and Deaths in the Elderly
Let’s get to the specifics of the common causes of using bed rails. Knowing these helps mitigate the risks and injuries your elderly loved one might suffer.
1. Entrapment and Suffocation
Entrapment usually happens when patients get a part of their body stuck between the rails. Most often than not, this is usually harmless.
Nevertheless, it can become serious when the elderly can’t free themself. Some would struggle to end up with an injury or broken bone.
There are also instances when seniors can suffocate between the bed rail and mattress. This is common among patients who can’t roll their heads back to the right position.
In worse cases, a patient could also get their head trapped in between the rails. As a result, seniors could suffocate if help isn’t given immediately.
This usually happens when the gap between the metal frames is too wide. Body parts can slip easily, especially if the mattress is too small for the frame.
One way to avoid this is to fit the beds with the right mattress size. It helps prevent entrapment from patients rolling to the edge of the mattress.
3. Falling While Climbing Over Bed Rails
Stubborn patients are at a higher risk of suffering from an injury each time they attempt to climb over the bed rails.
This is common among dementia patients, who are often confused with their surroundings.
Nothing can stop these patients, especially if the bed doesn’t have any safety straps included.
4. Proper Installation and Maintenance Issues
Seniors can suffer serious injuries due to a simple installation error or maintenance issue.
As much as possible, bed rail products must be installed properly. This helps an elderly person enjoy their bed safely and use them as intended.
A faulty installation can cause the bed rail to fall and give in to the patient’s weight. Both patient and bed rail could end up on the floor, with the patient having an injury.
Once you’ve got the bed rail installed, it’s also important that you maintain it. Always check that it’s sturdy and stable and if some parts need replacement.
Alternatives to Bed Rails for Elderly Safety
With a growing number of reports about deaths and injuries related to bed rails, most nursing homes are starting to look for alternatives.
We’ve listed some of them here to help you explore alternative bed safety options at home or in the workplace. Rest assured, these alternatives function the same way as a bed rail but minus the risks.
1. Floor/Low Beds
The beauty of floor/low beds is they come with an adjustable height. You can lower it close to the floor, perfect for patients who always roll off their mattress.
They won’t fall to great heights anymore! As an extra precaution, add some cushion mats on the floor.
The bed can easily be raised afterwards, so the person can use it as a support while standing.
2. Bed Rail Alternatives Like Foam Wedges and Safety Bumpers
We love foam wedges and safety bumpers for their convenience and affordability. They don’t have to be installed, unlike the standard bed rails.
All you have to do is stick them to the side of your mattress, and they already help prevent patients from falling out of bed.
This is a good temporary solution, especially if you use a portable bed or a box spring bed. You can choose from different types of wedges and bumpers that can easily be attached to the edge of the bead.
However, remember that this isn’t a good solution for dementia patients. They’ll be able to climb and remove the wedges in an instant.
3. Bedside Monitoring Devices and Alarms
Several medical supply companies offer bed monitoring devices and alarms to most nursing homes. These devices proved useful in altering nurses in case their patient falls.
Bed alarms emit an audio signal if a person falls off their mattress. Nurses can attend to their patients sooner and check up on them. This is perfect for workplaces that deal with many patients.
Bedside monitoring devices are also helpful and could include equipment similar to a baby monitor. You can position the monitor close to the hospital beds and watch what’s happening.
You’ll secure the welfare of your patients and monitor them for any injuries.
4. Proper Care Routines and Support From Caregivers
There’s no substitute for providing your patient with the best care possible. The best security measure is always checking up on your patient and attending to their medical needs.
This includes looking after the things and equipment used by the patients.
Doing this helps prevent the patients from serious injury, especially when they try to climb off their mattress.
Tips for Choosing Safe Bed Rails for Elderly Individuals
There are different types of bed rails out there. Through the years, these bed rails have been useful in every bed system.
These bed rails aim to keep seniors safe in their beds, and they won’t fall off. One way to explore the best bed rails for elderly is by knowing the right considerations to make in your search.
1. Selecting the Right Type of Bed Rail
You can explore different types of bed rails out there, depending on your need. In general, there are three types of bed rails you can explore:
- Portable bed rails
- Hospital bed rails
Portable bed rails, as its name suggests, aren’t part of the bed system yet. They have to be attached to the bed and installed alongside it.
The beauty of portable rails is you can easily transfer them from one mattress to another.
As long as it’s attached correctly, you’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s a good temporary solution for seniors having some mobility issues.
Several medical supply companies offer portable rails; you’ll have a good selection of bed rail products.
Hospital bed rails are the same, except they’re used on hospital beds. The side rails could be made of metal or plastic bars, providing outstanding durability.
Some travel the length of hospital beds, while others reach only half length of the bed.
In some cases, hospital bed rails can be attached and removed. But for long-term use, we highly recommend hospital beds with permanent side rails.
2. Ensuring Proper Installation
Whether you plan to rent hospital beds or buy your bed rail products, make sure they stay secure in their position.
Installation is always crucial, especially on bed rails. The metal or plastic bars of the rail must support the patient’s full weight.
The last thing you want to happen is your patient tumbling over while trying to support themselves with the bed rail. They could suffer some serious injuries because of a slight oversight.
3. Considering the Individual’s Mobility and Cognitive Status
One way to secure the right bed rail products is by assessing the needs of your patient.
Bed rails have a lot of advantages for disabled seniors. It can help support their weight and safely lift their body when necessary.
Nevertheless, there are a few alternatives that are more compatible with the needs of other seniors.
Cognitive status is also important, especially for seniors who have dementia. Bed rails may not be the best option because they can feel trapped. They may attempt to jump off the rail and suffer an injury.
4. Regularly Inspecting and Maintaining the Bed Rails
Find a bed rail that doesn’t require much maintenance. It has to be durable and long-lasting and will least likely result in injuries.
Notwithstanding this, it pays to check on your bed rails and if they’re safe to use. Whether you plan to use bed rails that are only half-length or full, make sure they’re safely and securely attached.
Frequently Asked Questions
In our quest to learn more about bed rails, we’ve encountered several FAQs. These FAQs will help you enjoy and understand how to use bed rails safely and correctly.
Are Bed Rails Considered a Restraint?
The only time they’re considered a restraint is if it’s intended to limit the movement of a person.
In such cases, a person may feel trapped on the bed and frustrated. They may attempt to jump off the bed rail and suffer an injury.
How to Choose the Right Bed Rail for an Elderly Person?
To find the best bed rail and reduce the number of injuries, there are a few considerations you have to keep in mind:
- Bed style
- Material: metal or plastic
- Gap size
- Patient needs
These considerations help you land the right bed rail for your needs. The same considerations apply when looking for medical devices to help your patient.
When Should Bed Rails Not Be Used?
There are several instances when a bed rail product can’t be used on particular persons.
Take the case of agile patients who have freedom of movement. They won’t need a bed rail while sleeping.
Unlike those who are immobile, you don’t have to worry about them suffering any injuries.
We also don’t recommend using bed rails for confused patients, like those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. They may feel trapped in their bed during their state of confusion.
As a result, they could risk breaking their bones when they attempt to jump from the bed.
What Are the Safety Guidelines for Using Bed Rails for Seniors?
To get the most out of your bed rails, there are a few safety guidelines you need to remember:
- Attach bed rails to the box spring/bed only when necessary
- Always conduct a risk assessment on the person you plan to use the bed rail product
- Make sure the bed rail is suitable for the bed and mattress style
- The bed rails must always be secure and regularly maintained
- Consider alternative medical products to bed rails
These guidelines can help minimize the injuries you encounter in the workplace, especially while you’re sleeping!
Can Bed Rails Be Used With Adjustable Beds?
Yes. Bed rails can be safely used, even on adjustable beds. Just be sure the bed rail you choose is compatible with the bed, and install it properly.
At the same time, make sure it doesn’t affect the mechanism of the bed so you can still enjoy its features. The same medical advice applies even to those who rent hospital beds.
Many people ask, “Are bed rails safe?” and the simple answer is yes. They’re safe if you install and secure all screws properly.
Regular maintenance is also required to reduce the risk of a patient suffering from a serious injury.
Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report that there’s a risk involved when you use medical products like bed rails.
Knowing the risk helps you watch out for the red flags of using a bed rail.