U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Forensic Markers of Physical Elder Abuse: Establishing a Medical Characterization and Identifying the Criminal Justice Approach to Investigation and Prosecution

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2019
22 pages
This is the "Final Summary Overview" of a study with the objectives of determining the characteristics of injuries to elder persons that are distinctive to physical abuse and how the documentation of such injuries can facilitate the successful investigation and prosecution of such cases.
Specifically, this study did the following: 1) documented the spectrum of injuries and injury characteristics observed among physically abused older adults reported to Adult Protective Services (APS) and compared these finding to injuries among non-abused elder adults; 2) identified observable injury characteristics and abuse circumstances that healthcare providers, law enforcement, and prosecutors consider to be key forensic markers of physical abuse; 3) documented information and evidence integral for achieving successful criminal prosecutions of such cases; and 4) described approaches community-based frontline workers can use to improve the documentation of physical abuse. Although APS determined that about 23 percent of APS clients did not have any physical injuries, injury prevalence was significantly higher among APS clients compared with clinic-recruited controls (77 percent compared with 61 percent). The characteristics of the injuries of APS clients are noted in this report. Head, neck, and maxillofacial swelling and tenderness in areas without any other injury were significantly more likely to occur among APS clients than clinic subjects. Among injured APS clients, similar areas of swelling were also observed on their upper extremities and lower extremities; affected areas of tenderness were also observed on their upper extremities, trunk, and lower extremities. Characteristics of abuse-related bruising are also reported. This report includes information on medical perceptions and criminal justice personnel's perceptions of forensic markers of physical abuse. 5 tables, 1 figure, and a listing of scholarly products derived from this study

Date Published: January 1, 2019