We expect our skin to change as we age. Though we may take strides to postpone changes like age spots, lines and wrinkles, most of us eventually accept these changes, even coming to see them as the badges of honor that we gain for a life well lived. Easy bruising, however, is a change that catches many older adults by surprise.
Alarming though it may be to see a large bruise on your senior loved one, especially one that they can’t recall getting, easy bruising is quite common among seniors. Keeping reading to find out why bruising is so common among older adults, how you can recognize if they are a sign of a serious problem and how to prevent excessive bruising.
Why is Bruising So Common?
A bruise occurs when the small blood vessels under your skin are broken by some form of impact, such as hitting your knee on the coffee table. When that happens, blood leaks out of the vessel and forms a black or blue mark under your skin. Within a few days, the body absorbs that blood and the bruise disappears. For most people, it takes a fairly hard blow to break those blood vessels, but as we age, our blood vessels become more fragile. To make matters worse, the skin cells retain less of the fat and moisture that forms a protective barrier to shield blood vessels from injury. For a senior, a minor bump that they don’t even notice is enough to break blood vessels and cause a bruise. If your loved one is on a medication that acts as a blood thinner, they may also be more prone to bruising.
When is Bruising a Sign of Trouble?
By itself, bruising is not cause for alarm. However, if your loved one has large bruising that regularly appears on their face, back or trunk, has a history of severe bleeding or a family history of severe bleeding, talk to their doctor. These could indicate low levels of or abnormally functioning platelets.
Another serious cause of bruising to explore is elder abuse. If your loved one has regular bruising that appears in unusual places or seem to be the result of violence, then speak with them about the possibility of abuse.
While you may not be able to completely eliminate easy bruising in your senior loved one, there are a few preventative measures you can take. Eliminating household clutter may help to prevent bumps and falls. Additionally, long-sleeved shirts and pants can help to compensate for thinner skin by adding a layer of protection for the blood vessels.
Once a bruise has occurred, there are a few remedies that may help it disappear more quickly. A mixture of vinegar and warm water can be applied to the area to speed up the process. Some may find that an ice pack is an effective first aid tool, while others have better success with a heating pad or hot water bottle. Most bruises disappear with time, although the healing process might take longer as you age.
While bruises on your senior loved one may be alarming to see, they are generally no cause for concern. If you suspect that they indicate a serious problem, speak with their doctor about checking platelet levels or making changes to your senior loved one’s care.