Our skin gets thinner as we grow older, and this causes the elderly to bruise easily. It may take only minor bumps or brushes against something to cause bruises. It can be months before the marks heal.
Some medications contribute to bruising in the elderly. Prescription blood thinners and over-the-counter medicines can cause the blood to be slow to clot. Gingko and other supplements also affect the rate at which blood clots. When the blood does not clot properly, bruises are more likely to form. Certain combinations of medications might make patients lightheaded or dizzy, or reduce their alertness. These issues can also cause patients to fall and bruise themselves.
Patients should discuss their medications and supplements with doctors. Doctors may be able to adjust the prescriptions to reduce patients’ chances of injuring themselves. They might advise patients to stop taking supplements that cause the blood to thin.
Bruising in the elderly could be a sign of a serious health condition. Certain blood disorders can lead to improper clotting. The blood pools beneath the thin skin and causes dark marks. When an elderly person frequently has large bruises and does not know what caused them, he or she should discuss the matter with a doctor who can check for medical conditions. Once the doctor treats any medical issues, the patient may experience fewer bruises.
Vision problems can make it difficult to detect hazards when walking. This can cause patients to fall or misstep and get bruises. One way to address this issue is for elderly patients to have regular eye exams and to ensure that furniture and other objects that may have sharp corners are arranged without obstructing common walking paths in the home. There should be no items on the floor that could cause a person to fall, and the layout of the living area should provide easy maneuvering.
Removing potential hazards like loose throw rugs, phone or electrical cords on the floor, small pieces of furniture that could accidentally get moved in the middle of a common path the elderly patient travels within the home will help to prevent unnecessary bruising from trips, bumps and falls. Maintaining adequate lighting and installing handrails on walls and along steps, in showers and bathtubs is also very helpful.
Exercise is helpful for decreasing the risk of bruising in the elderly. Older people can be sedentary. When muscles are not used regularly, they become weaker. Elderly people who get little exercise have difficulty maintaining their balance and controlling their movements, which makes them more likely to fall and bruise themselves.
While this is a bruising factor that no one wants to have to consider, there is a possibility that bruises may not be caused by medication, medical problems or injuries. They could be signs that an elderly person is being abused. When family members visit nursing homes or even an elderly relative’s home where they have a caretaker, they should check for bruises. They should ask patients and staff (if in a nursing home or assisted living community) about any suspicious marks they see.