The New York Times reported in late November that 61% of adult bedrail deaths occurred at home while only about a quarter of deaths occurred in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Between January 2003 and 2012, 166 adults died from a bedrail accident; 126 of those were age 60 and over. Most deaths occurred when a person had his or her head or neck stuck in the bedrails. 37,000 people were treated at emergency rooms for injuries from a bedrail.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that of these deaths, half of the decedents had medical problems: Parkinsons, dementia, heart disease. Consumer safety advocates have long sought more study into bedrail deaths and injuries were pleased with the initial report. Advocates hope that more caregivers can be properly educated and made aware of the risks of bedrails. The report did not investigate whether bedrail designs contributed to the deaths or injuries. It remains unclear who or what is responsible for bedrail oversight; whether the rails are medical devices or consumer products has not been resolved.
In my experience dealing with elderly falls and neglect cases at nursing homes (and occasionally hospitals), injuries and deaths involving bedrails more often than not hinge on whether the resident or patient should have been more closely monitored. Sometimes patients are instructed not to get up out of bed but attempt to do so when the nurse or medial professional leaves the room--then a fall out of bed or a bedrail accident can easily occur. In nursing homes, it may be that the staff is not diligent enough about supervision in and out of bed and navigating the bedrails, creating opportunities for bedrail accidents and falls.
Sometimes accidents just happen and there's nothing that could have prevented them, but caregivers at hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers should always take care with our elderly generation, especially involving navigation of bedrails.