Study: Nursing home resident falls don't increase with bed-rail removal

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Cutting back on the use of restrictive side rails on nursing home residents' beds does not appear to increase the risk of falls, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Entrapment leading to injuries and even deaths has been blamed on the use of full-length side rails, according to the study author Dr. Elizabeth Capezuti of New York University College of Nursing in New York City. And while many regulators and providers alike discourage the routine use of restrictive side rails, they are still found on beds in some facilities.

Removing the use of restrictive side rails did not affect fall rates in three of the four nursing homes researchers studied. And one nursing home actually saw the rate of falls among residents drop significantly with the use of side rail alternatives, according to researchers.

Alternatives posed by the researchers include: shorter side rails that could be used as hand-holds; lower beds; and offering physical therapy and rehabilitation to improve residents' strength and balance.