Despite the dangers of side rails, many nursing homes routinely continue to use them. In some nursing homes all of the beds have rails and there is no consideration for the individual needs of the patient. So, why do nursing homes insist on using bed rails?
There are potential benefits to using bed rails that are often cited by nursing homes. First, bed rails may make frail patients feel more secure. Bed rails give them something to hold on to when they are getting in and out of bed which might make them feel like they are less likely to fall and get hurt. Next, bed rails can help patients reposition themselves in their bed and be able to reach for the bed controls and their things on their bedside table. This might be important for the patient's independence, comfort and safety. Some patients find that they are able to get in and out of bed without assistance and to reach things such as a cup of water, a book, or the light switch that they would otherwise need the assistance of a nurse to reach. They, therefore feel like they have more autonomy and dignity than they otherwise would have without the bedrails. Further, some nursing home staff believe that having bed rails on the bed makes it easier to transport patients who may need to be transported for medical tests or other reasons. The rails may prevent patients from falling out of bed and having to endure the pain and danger associated with a fall.
For more involved patients who may be a danger to themselves or others, nursing home staff may use bed rails as a form of restraint. The bedrails may prevent some people from getting out of bed at all. Some nursing home staff find this desirable for patients who are suffering from dementia who could potentially get lost and for patients with psychological disorders that make them potentially dangerous.
Some nursing home staff may argue that another benefit to bed side rails is that they make the nurse's job easier. Nursing home staff view the bed rails in much the same way as a parent may view the safety bars on a crib. They allow staff to supervise patients a little less closely and to trust that they will safely remain where they had been left. Whether these arguments are applicable to the vast majority of patients is unknown. What is known is that many nursing home staff believe in the potential benefits of bed side rails and that some of them are making bed rails standard operating procedure for every patient.
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