This article sought to describe the spectrum and characteristics of injuries among physically abused older adults and identify injury characteristics associated with abuse.
Physical elder abuse affects a substantial number of older adults, leaving victims at increased risk for negative health outcomes. Improved detection of abuse-related injuries may increase victim access to professional support, but providers report difficulties distinguishing between accidental and abuse-related injuries, due in part to victims' pre-existing health conditions and medication use. To describe the spectrum and characteristics of injuries among physically abused older adults and identify injury characteristics associated with abuse, this case–control study interviewed physically abused adult protective services clients in their home and a non-abused comparison group in an outpatient geriatrics clinic. Findings showed, physically abused older adults were more likely to be injured upon assessment and have a greater number of injuries. Injuries seen more often among abused individuals included: upper extremity ecchymoses, abrasions, and areas of tenderness; and head/neck/maxillofacial ecchymoses and tenderness. Lower extremity abrasions were common but unrelated to abuse status. In conclusion, while physical abuse does not always result in physical injury, victims more commonly display head/neck/maxillofacial ecchymoses or tenderness and upper extremity abrasions, ecchymoses, or tenderness. Detection of these injuries among older adults warrants further interview and examination. (Publisher abstract modified)