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Bed Safety, Known Risk Products, and Falls from Beds
What Caregivers need to know

By Patrece Banks

Did you know: Side rails, bed side rails, safety rails (from full-length to the tiny 1/8th) have known risks according to our government and advocacy groups? Is a loved one using a product routinely recommended with these known risks and told it’s for bed safety or fall prevention? Is a loved one at risk of falling? As a caregiver it is important to know these answers. According to the National Safety Council:

“No family should have to endure the heartbreak of losing an elderly relative to a preventable fall”.

They also say:

“Falls have come to be recognized as a major threat to the safety, health and independence of elderly persons”.

“Falls from beds are the 2nd leading cause of injury-related deaths”

“60 percent of fall-related deaths occur among people 65 and older”

Falls cost $27 billion a year this is big business! Fall prevention and bed safety is lost in the healthcare system! Our government is concerned about bed safety, fall prevention and saving money. Don’t assume healthcare workers, healthcare professionals or your local suppliers know about or understand: bed safety, restraints, entrapment hazards, or current fall prevention methods. If, they did they would not be recommending products (side rails of all shapes & sizes) that have “known risks” and falls would not be big business. Typically those in healthcare are misinformed or uninformed attempting to help the less informed and potentially putting a loved one at risk. By reading this article you will be better informed then the average person delivering healthcare. The proof is in the condition of our healthcare system. It’s in your best interest to be informed especially when you can prevent a potentially devastating fall. Help us educate those at risk and those that may put someone else at risk without knowing it!
It’s no secret to our government or advocacy groups that falls can be easily prevented. Don’t think about fall prevention from the emergency room or beside a hospital bed. Be proactive!

Internet search “physical restraints” and you won’t find “safe” or “user friendly” as a description! By government definition a physical restraint is: “mechanical device, material, or equipment attached or adjacent to the individual’s body that the individual cannot remove easily which restricts freedom of movement”.

Restraints can be fall hazards. The emotional effect on the person is a factor and can create many negative outcomes like depression or confinement.
A Bright Future: In 1999 the government formed the “Hospital Bed Safety Workgroup” to help protect the public and inform the healthcare industry about the known risks with side rails. Finding restraint free alternatives has been a focus for bed safety, fall prevention and better bed mobility, until now there has not been a restraint free product. The status quo is no longer acceptable and fall prevention is a focus nationwide for obvious reasons. Caregivers will play the lead role in homes and in healthcare settings. Understanding some fundamental factors around bed safety, restraints and fall prevention will greatly benefit you and your loved one. Now, you are aware of the typical products recommended, there known risks, and negative outcomes. Let’s look at other factors:

Did you know age was a medical condition when you turn 65? Age related-differences affect young and old. Somehow it changes into a medical condition when we are older. Are slower reflexes a medical condition? Probably not but no doubt open for debate! If it is from natural aging we may need to compensate for this change by changing our environment, get more exercise, or use tools that foster independence and dignity. Other factors may be chronic illnesses, medications or multiple medications, environmental hazards, unsafe products etc. There may be more then one factor that puts someone at increased risk of falling. Age automatically puts someone at risk and drastically increases with each additional risk factor(s) and increases with age.

Why beds are such a high fall risk? Have you ever said “I got up too fast” when you were 20 or 40? Think about 60, 70 or 80 and compound the risk factors. It’s not the bed unless our feet dangle (which is a risk factor) but how we get out of bed. Having something stable to hold onto for balance is important to help avoid a fall or help us get out of bed, safely. It is important to use a tool that does not get in your way. Tools you must work around are a fall hazard. Bone loss can have a dire fall outcome. A change in blood pressure rising from bed can cause dizziness. Age related-differences change the potential outcome be it age 5 or 65. At 65, it’s important to compensate and more importantly prevent a fall before it’s too late especially, when falls can easily be prevented.

Look into fall prevention and act on it! As a caregiver the rewards will far exceed what you could endure after a loved one falls. Don’t let yourself fall victim to a fall helping someone avoid a fall. Don’t count on the system or those in it until you know they are aware of the facts. The government is working on a lot of changes that focus on safety, prevention, and positive outcomes for patients. There is going to be more focus on prevention especially in areas where billions can be saved and lives can be spared. Who has the vested interest in prevention and self preservation? The caregiver and their loved one!

Many products don’t get used because they are institutional, and not user friendly. There is a new innovation: Outta BedTM (pat. pend.) can help address the issues in this article please visit www.invisiblecaregiver.com for more information and to learn more about bed safety and fall prevention.
 



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