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You are visiting your elderly relative in the nursing home in St. Louis. You notice she has bruising all over the inside of her arm, you’re concerned she may be victim of elder abuse. When you ask her what happened she tells you that the nurse was “rough on her”. When you ask the head nurse about the details, she said that your relative has difficult veins and had a hard time drawing blood. When asked why she needed to draw blood, the nurse said it was “standard procedure”. After talking with your relative’s doctor, you find out that multiple blood draws were unnecessary. Due to unsuccessful draws, your relative has very few “usable” veins left.
Through the natural process of aging, an elderly person’s skin becomes thin and blood vessels become weaker, making it difficult to draw blood. When an elderly person is subjected to numerous failed attempts at collecting blood or receives numerous injections in the same area, veins are at risk of collapsing. Unsuccessful blood draws also lead to hematomas, which can be painful and raise questions, particularly in a nursing home setting.
While bruising can be common, when trying to draw blood, it should not be disregarded or ignored. Bruising indicates trouble; either the process of blood drawing needs to change or a medical professional is being careless and possibly forceful.
Changing the Way You Draw Blood
If you work in a nursing home and have to draw blood from residents, it’s likely that you face challenges on a daily basis. Even if you have been successful one day on one resident, you might run into issues later on with the same resident. What can be more frustrating could be the resident’s temperament. If a resident suffers from any sort of mental or memory issue, he or she may be less likely to cooperate when getting blood drawn.
Depending on the procedures within your facility, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the most experienced phlebotomists run into major challenges, consider these tips to make drawing blood an easier process. If you are afraid that you will be accused of abusing an elderly resident, make sure that you communicate with your staff and even consider learning (or relearning) how to draw blood properly.
For Family Members
As a family member of a nursing home resident, there are many moments that you feel helpless. Even when your loved one has a routine procedure, such as having blood drawn, it can end up being painful and stressful. If you feel as if your elderly loved one is having blood drawn too many times or if you are concerned about visible and/or frequent hematomas, talk to the staff at the nursing home or your loved one’s medical doctor. With your involvement, you can help determine if the procedure is necessary or if a larger issue is the problem, such as elder abuse.
Although you are not a medical professional and would like to trust the people who work in the nursing home, you have the right to ask questions and advocate for your elderly loved one.