The Six Warning Signs, What They Mean
Bruises found on a parent in a nursing home should never be ignored. Bruises (actually pools of blood beneath the skin caused by broken capillaries) heal slowly in people with poor circulation. Older people do bruise more easily, but every bruise should be treated like a question mark. Any bruise or cut requires both medical attention and an evaluation to determine its cause.
Where and Why Nursing Home Residents Bruise
Bruises can occur for a number of reasons and locations. Because bruising is more common in the elderly and can increase with an improper diet, bruises are good indicators of other forms of nursing home neglect and abuse.
Bruises on hips and arms from falls can indicate inattention by staff or the use of restraints like bedrails. Bruising along the wrists can indicate the use of cuffs, being tugged or pulled by staff, or other questionable uses of force and/or physical restraints. Bruising can also occur when a nursing home resident is struck by a member of the nursing home staff in cases of abuse or when, through neglect, unmonitored residents have the opportunity or are encouraged to attack another.
Why Residents are Quiet about Abuse
Nursing home residents are frequent targets of physical abuse because they are physically weaker than their abuser and because their memory cannot always be trusted. Simply put, some abusers abuse residents because their dementia won’t let them remember being hurt. Equally disheartened, some of those abused in nursing homes willfully remain quiet.
The reasons for this are diverse. Some nursing home residents fear retribution from abusive staff if they “tattle.” Sometimes victims of abuse would rather pretend the attack didn’t happen because they feel they somehow deserved being treated that way. Others feel that nothing can be done.
Nursing Home Resident Abuse
Nursing home residents are victims of physical violence and sexual abuse far more frequently than the nursing home lobby acknowledges. Insufficient background checks on employees and corporate environments promoting money-making and cost-cutting over patient care contribute to these acts of perverse violence.
Frequently talk with your parent or loved one in the nursing home, and do not be afraid to ask about bruises you notice. Let them know that, while you cannot always be with them at the nursing home, you are with them in spirit and that you want to hear about what’s happening to them. Clear communication with the outside world gives nursing home resident hope for better treatment and reminds them that their life still has meaning. Statistically, frequent contact also drastically reduces the incidents of abuse and neglect a nursing home resident suffers. Looking closely at a bruise might save a life.
Lawyers for Change
If suspicious bruising or bruises appear your parent or loved one in nursing home care, contact the Consumer Justice Group. Our nursing home abuse attorneys and staff physicians can determine why these bruises are occurring. Click to speak with a nursing home attorney in your area.
The July 2001 Congressional report “Abuse of Residents Is a Major Problem in U.S. Nursing Homes” prepared for California Congressman Henry Waxman contains graphic account after account of angry staffers beating terrified residents. Details of sexual abuse are also included. The report concludes that over 1,600 nursing homes in the United States placed their residents in "immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury."
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ Division of Senior Services and Regulation issued a November 2004 report containing important warning signs as a checklist of “Indicators of Abuse.”
The Nursing Home Abuse & Nursing Home Neglect News is a service of the Consumer Justice Group.