Bruises as Warning Signs of Abuse

Elder abuse — the abuse of senior citizens- can happen in nursing homes, in the home of the senior’s children or with a trusted personal caretaker. It is important for anyone with an elderly loved one to know the signs of abuse.

A new study was released this year by the National Institute of Justice regarding bruises. The elderly are more prone to falls as they age because their bodies are more fragile and their balance may be off. Often these accidental falls are blamed for minor injuries, but it's important to know how to tell if abuse or neglect may be the cause.

The main point of the study is to differentiate between accidental bruises and bruises from abuse. Accidental bruises are typically found on the legs and arms and usually no one can remember how they got there.

A sign of abuse is if a person has a story for the bruise. Even if the story is a lie, an intentional bruise will always have a reason for it being there. Another good indicator of abuse is if the bruise is larger than two inches.

 By law, nursing home and assisted living staff are required to report to DSS (Department of Social Services) if they suspect any abuse. This can be self abuse, facility neglect, and even abuse by their children or spouse. One nurse describes such patients as withdrawn and uninvolved with activities.

If someone suspects elder abuse, they should first call DSS who will send out staff to investigate, if abuse is suspected DSS will call the police.

One police chief familiar with elder abuse said, “Something as simple as a bruise might be a sign of abuse, but it could also have happened while someone was being moved from a hospital bed. Signs include bruises, lacerations, broken bones, dehydration, malnourishment — all may indicate abuse especially if they’re being taken care of in a private home.”

 For more, read the story.

At our law office we take falls seriously as well. Please watch our brief video on falls if you are concerned about a loved one who may have acquired bruises while in the care of someone else.


Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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