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Bruising as a Marker of Physical Elder Abuse

NCJ Number
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Volume: 57 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2009 Pages: 1191-1196
Date Published
July 2009
6 pages

This study explores the use of bruising as an indicator of physical elder abuse.


Findings from this study on the presence of bruising as an indicator of physical elder abuse include the following: 72 percent of older adults who were seen within 30 days of an incident of physical abuse (n=48) were found to have bruises; of the 48 individuals with bruises, 22 had 1 to 2 bruises, while 26 had anywhere from 3 to 9 bruises; 91 percent of the abuse victims knew the cause of at least 1 of their bruises, compared to only 29 percent of individuals in the comparison group; and 40 percent of abused older adults had bruises on the head, neck, or torso, compared to only 13 percent of the comparison group. This study had three objectives: 1) determine what percentage of victims of confirmed elder abuse had bruises; 2) determine the location and size of bruises and victim-stated cause of bruises in confirmed cases of elder abuse; and 3) determine the existence of differences between bruises in older adults who have or have not been victims of elder abuse. Data for the study were obtained from a sample of older adults, n=67, who were alleged to have been physically abused. Of the 67 participants, physical abuse was confirmed for 56, inconclusive for 10, and unfounded for 1. The bruises on the sample of abuse victims were compared to the results of an earlier study that examined a group of 68 older adults with bruises that were acquired accidentally. The findings from this study indicate that bruises on older adults that occur as a result of physical maltreatment are often large and found primarily on the face, lateral right arm, or posterior torso areas. This suggests that older adults who present with these types of bruises should be asked the cause of the bruises to determine whether they have been the victim of physical abuse. Study limitations and suggestions for future research are discussed. Tables and references

Date Published: July 1, 2009