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When Bruises Can’t Speak For Themselves: The Difficulty Proving Abuse Of Disabled Nursing Home Residents

Picture-96The News & Observer, had an article about the difficulty proving physical abuse in disabled nursing home residents who are unable to communicate any information about the act. The article focuses on an 88-year-old disabled woman who sustained bruises to her face(consistent with abuse) while a resident at Sunnybrook Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Raleigh, North Carolina The woman suffered from advanced dementia and was unable to walk or roll over– therefore bruising due to a fall could immediately be ruled out.

Elder abuse in North Carolina

Complaints of elder abuse in North Carolina increased 20% between 2007 and 2008.  According to Sharon Wilder, a state ombudsman for long-term care, reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation will continue to increase both as a function of the rise in the numbers of the elderly population and as a result of caregivers demand to get answers following an incident.

“We now have baby boomers emerging as the sandwich generation and as caregivers for their elders,” Wilder added.  “Their nature is to ask more questions and to want more answers.  There are more willing to contact whoever they need to get answers.”

According to North Carolina nursing home surveys, just 15% of the reports of elder abuse occurred in a long-term care setting, with the remainder of alleged abuse occurring in private homes and reported by relatives, neighbors or health care professionals.

Abuse of the elderly in long-term care settings

Despite a seemingly endless supply of news headlines, directing attention to this despicable act, most cases of elder abuse go unreported.  Remember, you know your loved one better than anyone else.  If you suspect mistreatment or abuse, immediately report the situation to local police and/or ombudsmen.  A timely investigation can go a long way towards identifying the individuals responsible for the abuse and hold them accountable.

The following conditions warrant investigation:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains, or fractures
  • Frozen joints
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections, vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Bloody clothing
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Staff refusing to allow visitors to see resident or delays in allowing visitors to see resident
  • Resident being kept in an over-medicated state
  • Sudden loss of an appetite

Over the course of the the past 30 years, lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, have helped families coping with the fallout from elder abuse.  In many cases, we have successfully recovered damages from the facilities where the abuse occurred.  If you have a question related to abuse in a long-term care setting, we would honor the opportunity to speak with you.  (888) 424-5757

For laws related to North Carolina nursing homes, look here.

Web Resources:

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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  • steroids

    It is hard to think that other person can physically abuse an old woman and to think that she is a disabled one. This old woman is the face of improper treatment to most of the elder, we should treat them right and we should have patience for them.

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  • Bruising should always be taken seriously by an administrator, but I have found that too many assume a bruise is meaningless because the elderly bruise easily. I investigated abuse and neglect in nursing homes for years. A bruise should suggest to the administrator that staff are being rushed. Rarely is a bruise from abuse, but it is often due to negligence. Administrators think that negligence is something intentional, but it is simply carelessness on the part of staff. Bruising occurs when staff are in a hurry and take short cuts. It is almost impossible to know how a bruise occurred unless there is a hand print or other clear sign that abuse occurred, but administrators should re-inservice staff on the need to be careful with the fragile skin of the elderly. The administrator should also review staffing to ensure that it is adequate. Every bruise of unknown origin should be fully investigated by the facility. Is there new staff ?Are there other residents with bruising and if so does it just appear on one worker’s assignment.

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