GIFU – Suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths of three elderly residents and injuries of two others at a nursing care facility in Gifu Prefecture remained unclear Monday, with investigators saying they found bruises on one of the deceased and the two who suffered injuries.
Police have been working to determine whether the incidents, which occurred between the end of July and mid-August at the Soleil nursing care facility in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, constitute criminal cases.
Bruises were found on the chest of an 87-year-old woman who died earlier this month after her lung was punctured by a broken rib. The woman, identified by her relatives as Sachiko Nakae, a resident of Takayama, took a bath on the morning of Aug. 12 with the support of facility staff, according to Soleil officials. At around 4:40 p.m. that day she became pale and was rushed to a hospital, where she died the following night.
According to a grandchild of Nakae, her family members spotted purple marks on her chest at the hospital, which appeared to be from internal bleeding.
Nakae, normally chatty, was quiet when the family visited her at around 2 p.m. Aug. 12, the grandchild said. This relative added that Nakae had only blinked and moved her mouth slightly when they talked to her. They also noticed a red mark resembling a bruise on her neck, the grandchild said.
Nakae bathed twice a week with the help of two facility staff. According to the family, they had never noticed any bruises before.
The operator of the Soleil facility said Nakae’s ribs could have been broken or dislocated when staff helped her get into the bathtub.
Two others Soleil residents died within the past few weeks — Kinko Ishimoto, 93, who died of a cerebral contusion earlier this month, and Tomio Kadodani, 80, who choked on his food and died later at a hospital.
Ishimoto’s grandson said: “We’ve been told that she probably fell. But there isn’t any security camera footage and no one was watching so we will never know.”
In the case of Kadodani, the facility operator initially told his next of kin that he had died of a heart attack. The hospital where Kadodani died concluded that he choked to death, but Soleil did not report it to the Gifu Prefectural Government. Nursing care operators are obliged to report such accidents to the prefecture.
Two other women in their 90s at the facility were also injured recently and hospitalized. They also showed signs of bruising.
Sources said Monday that the involvement of parties outside the facility is unlikely, because the five residents lived on the upper floor where the activation of elevators requires officials to punch in passwords as a measure to prevent residents from wandering outside. Doors to emergency stairs were also locked, they said.