This is the latest in our series about nursing homes.   We’ve covered dehydration, medication errors and falls. This installment talks about the hazards posed by bed rails.

Bed rails (also known as side rails and safety rails) are common in nursing home beds.

They might seem like a routine safety measure.  But in reality, they’re a complex and individualized part of a resident’s care plan, just like medication or proper hydration.

Bed rails can help prevent falls and provide physical support for residents.

But they shouldn’t always be deployed.  In some cases, bed rails dramatically increase risks to residents.

Residents can get trapped between the bars of the rail.

Residents can get trapped between the rail and the bed or bed frame.

Residents with cognitive challenges try to climb over bed rails.

Residents scoot to the end of the bed to get around a raised rail.  In the process they get entrapped, entangled and frequently fall.

The federal government has imposed detailed guidelines on bed rails.

Here’s the bottom line: Nursing Homes must treat everyone as an individual

The automatic use of bed rails is an unwarranted hazard to resident safety.  There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to bed rails.  Nursing homes must assess each resident’s individual physical and mental state and determine if bed rails should be implemented in the care plan.

Decisions to use bed rails should be part of a decision made by the resident, their family and the caregivers.

If a nursing home is using putting up rails on every bed, it’s putting the lives of their residents at risk.