Elderly people can prevent bruising by removing obstacles such as furniture to avoid bumps or falls, having assistance when sitting or standing, walking with a cane or walker to prevent falls, and using or installing handrails to provide additional support. Loved ones with elderly residents in nursing homes should monitor their loved ones for any signs and symptoms of elder abuse, which may lead to bruising.
How Bruising in the Elderly Occurs
Bruises are caused when the blood from damaged cells collects near the surface of the skin, causing the appearance of a black, blue, purple, or yellow mark on the skin. Bruising typically occurs due to a fall or injury to the skin. However, bruising also occurs in people who have a bleeding disorder or who take blood thinners.
Skin becomes thinner as it ages. Elderly people often suffer from bruising because the tissues that support the blood vessels under the skin have become more delicate, fragile, and sensitive due to the aging process. All these factors can make it hard for elderly people to prevent bruising.
Symptoms of Bruising
Bruises may not appear immediately after an injury. Oftentimes, they may appear slightly reddish, and then begin to turn darker colors such as blue, black, or purple. After several days, the bruise will fade to a yellow or green color. As the bruise fades, the tenderness of the area will also decrease. There is typically no risk of infection as a bruise does not break the skin.
When Medical Care Is Necessary
The elderly in nursing homes have much more sensitive and fragile skin. If pain or swelling occurs in a nursing home resident, the nursing home staff should contact a doctor to inspect the bruise. Additionally, many nursing home residents take blood-thinning medications. If a bruise is large or swollen and the resident is on any type of blood-thinning medication, the nursing home staff should contact a doctor or medical professional immediately.
If bruising occurs for no noticeable or explainable reason, or if the bruise does not improve within two weeks, the nursing home staff should contact a doctor. If the nursing home staff suspects a broken bone or a concussion along with the bruise, the resident should receive emergency care and treatment.
Examination and Testing of Bruising in Elderly People
If a nursing home resident has a serious bruise and the doctor does not believe there are any broken bones, medical testing will not be necessary. However, if a doctor is unsure if there are any broken bones or other medical conditions, like a concussion, a doctor may order an X-ray or a blood test. Additionally, if a doctor notices a pattern of bruising in specific areas or bruises in different stages of healing, it may alert the doctor to the possibility of elder abuse by the nursing home staff. This is important in preventing further bruising in elderly people.
Prevention of Bruising in Elderly People
There are several ways bruising can be prevented among the elderly in a nursing home, including the following:
- Place furniture and other objects away from common walkways and doors where they could bump or trip on the objects.
- Tape down all telephone and electrical cords to prevent falls.
- Maintain floors and clean any spills immediately.
- Ensure that all rugs are slip-resistant.
- Maintain the floors and walkways free of clutter and debris.
- Make sure that small nightlights are always on at night in case a resident wants to use the restroom or get out of bed for any reason.
- Carefully monitor all residents that are on blood-thinning drugs.
- Assist residents as they get out of wheelchairs or chairs into beds, and vice versa.
- Install handrails for support throughout the nursing home.
- Avoid grabbing on to an elderly resident too tightly as this can cause unintentional bruising.
Recognizing Elder Abuse
Bruising can be accidental. However, all too often bruising is a symptom of elder abuse by nursing home staff. Elder abuse is the knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a nursing home staff caregiver that causes harm, or risk of harm, to an elderly resident. Bruises appear due to rough handling of nursing home staff of their residents and can include fingerprint marks, bruising around arms and wrists, or on other areas of the body.
Oftentimes, elderly residents have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and may not have the cognitive function to be able to remember how they received their bruising. If your elderly loved one has unexplained bruising, severe bruising, bruises that do not follow predictable healing patters, bruises that harden or increase in size, or bruises that are painful, contact a doctor as soon as possible.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If your elderly loved one suffered from bruising in a nursing home due to a nursing home’s negligence, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your legal rights.