OBJECTIVES: To describe bruising as a marker of physical elder abuse.
DESIGN: Consenting older adults were examined to document location and size of bruises and assess whether they were inflicted during physical abuse. An expert panel confirmed physical abuse. Findings were compared with results of an earlier study of accidental bruising in older adults.
SETTING: Residences of participants.
PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-seven adults aged 65 and older reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) for suspected physical elder abuse.
MEASUREMENTS: Age, sex, ethnicity, race, functional status, medical conditions, cognitive status, history of falls, bruise size and location, recall of cause, and responses to Revised Conflicts Tactics Scale and Elder Abuse Inventory.
RESULTS: Seventy-two percent (n=48) of older adults who had been physically abused within 30 days before examination had bruises. The physically abused older adults had significantly larger bruises; more of them knew the cause of their bruises (43 (89.6%) vs 16 (23.5%) of the comparison group); and they were significantly more likely to have bruises on the face, lateral aspect of the right arm and the posterior torso (including back, chest, lumbar, and gluteal regions) than older adults from an earlier study who had not been abused (n=68).
CONCLUSION: Bruises that occur as a result of physical elder mistreatment are often large (>5 cm) and on the face, lateral right arm, or posterior torso. Older adults with bruises should be asked about the cause of the bruises to help ascertain whether physical abuse occurred.