Unexplained Bruising and Fractures in the Elderly

Unexplained bruises elderlySome bruising is common for elderly people due to certain medications, naturally thinning skin, or mishaps like bumping into furniture, but it can also be a warning sign that your loved one is being abused by their caregiver. Fractures can also be a red flag for abuse or neglect.

Federal law requires nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to classify injuries as “an injury of unknown source” if the source of the injury was not observed and or if it can’t be explained by the resident. Other requirements of the classification include the injury is suspicious due to the severity of it, where the injury is on the body, or the number of injuries observed at one point in time – or over a period of time.

If a nursing home resident has an injury of unknown source, then an investigation should be launched by the facility.

Residents of long-term care facilities have legal rights. They have the right to be free from any physical or chemical restraints, the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse; including corporal punishment and involuntary seclusion. If you feel your loved one’s rights have been infringed, you need a nursing home abuse attorney on your team.

CMS, Memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors, S&C-05-09, Clarification of Nursing Home Reporting Requirements for Alleged Violations of Mistreatment, Neglect, and Abuse, Including Injuries of Unknown Source, and Misappropriation of Resident Property, December 16, 2004.

Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in 10 Americans older than 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. It’s estimated that about 5 million elders are abused each year in the U.S., and only one in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

A 2016 article published by the Rome News-Tribune suggests elder abuse has become an epidemic in North-Georgia nursing homes with 517 cases prosecuted in Gwinnett County over the past six years, 311 in Dekalb County, 308 in Houston County, 263 in Cobb County, 160 in Laurens County, 140 in Clarke County, and 112 in Floyd County. In other Georgia regions, the figures ranged from 33 cases prosecuted in Bartow County to 27 in Polk County, 10 in Gordon County and four in Chattooga County, amongst other cases across the state.

Prosecuted Cases in North Georgia
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What is a Bruise?

A bruise, also called a contusion, is a soft-tissue injury that ruptures underlying blood vessels, causing the skin to look discolored.

Bruises Could be a Sign of Abuse or Neglect

Bruises can be caused by many things. Elderly people are more susceptible to bruising due to medications, thinning skin, diseases, and injuries. While not all bruising is caused by abuse or neglect, if your loved one lives in a nursing home and has continual unexplained bruises, it’s a cause for concern – especially if they aren’t able to tell you how they got them. Here are some signs your loved one may be getting bruises due to abuse or neglect.

  • Chronic or reoccurring bruises, especially if they appear in the same location
  • Unusually shaped bruises (in the shape of knuckles or fingers)
  • Patterned bruises on the ankles, wrist, or hips can be a sign of bed rails or cuffs used as restraints
  • Bruises on the neck, face, lateral arms, and torso
  • Bruises due to serious falls or other injuries
  • Large bruises
  • Bruises that seem to last a long time

Bruising Statistics

unexplained bruises nursery home

Aileen Wiglesworth, Raciela Austin, Maria Corona, Laura Mosqueda (2009, March) Bruising as a Forensic Marker of Physical Elder Abuse. Retrieved from www.ncjrs.gov.

A study of older adults who had been physically abused within 30 days of examination revealed that 60 percent of the bruises were inflicted, 14 percent were accidental, and 26 percent were of an unknown cause. The study also concluded that physically abused elders had significantly larger bruises compared to elders who had not been abused, and their bruises were more likely to be found on the neck and head, especially the face, the lateral aspect of the right arm, and the posterior torso.

Fractures in Georgia Nursing Homes

As people age, their bones can become brittle due to diseases like arthritis. It’s crucial caregivers take extra steps to protect nursing home residents from falls, and follow protocol when transporting or dressing residents. Medicine.net reports one out of every three people over 65 falls each year in the U.S.

Falls and fractures are a sign of potential neglect or abuse and are the most common cause of serious injuries among senior citizens. To learn more about how falls may be a sign of abuse or neglect, click here.

Sometimes residents are dropped because a nurse or other caregiver lifts them without the aid of another caregiver or proper equipment. This act of negligence can result in the resident receiving broken bones and other severe injuries – even death. If a nursing home is understaffed, it’s more likely to slack on safety policies, which is not only dangerous for elderly residents, it’s also against the law.

Roughly handling, restraining, and transporting a nursing home resident can also cause fractures. If your loved one has experienced a fracture while living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, contact us today at (706) 354-4000.

What to Do If You Discover Bruises or Fractures on a Nursing Home Resident

If you’ve noticed bruises, fractures or other unexplained injuries on a nursing home resident, it’s important to act. The first thing to do is ask the person how and when they got the injury. If it’s bruising, take note of the bruise’s location, color, and how large it is. Look to see if there are other bruises, scrapes, or marks of any kind.  If you suspect abuse or neglect, take a dated photo of the injury with your cell phone. Make sure to report the injury to nursing home staff and request an investigation into the matter, and that the resident see a doctor.

If you notice multiple bruises, reoccurring bruises, or bruises in the shape of knuckles or fingers, contact one of our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys today! Your loved one may be too frightened to come forward, or if they suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, they may not even remember the abuse occurred. If you suspect abuse and fear your loved one may be in immediate danger, call 911 and file a report of the incident with police.

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