an older woman cowers in fear and covers her face with her hands

Outright Abuse in Nursing Homes

Outright abuse in nursing homes occurs when staff members inflict physical, sexual, or emotional harm to residents. This makes outright abuse slightly different from nursing home neglect, which typically happens when a lack of care leads to harm. Thankfully, those hurt by neglect or outright abuse in nursing homes can pursue justice and compensation.

What Is Outright Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Outright abuse in a nursing home is any incident where a staff member intentionally causes harm to a resident instead of caring for them.

Outright abuse can encompass:

  • Emotional torment
  • Physical injuries
  • Sexual mistreatment

Sadly, outright abuse in nursing homes can be hard to spot as perpetrators do not want to get caught. The abuse may take place in private settings (such as a resident’s room) where staff members think they won’t be seen or heard.

Thankfully, you can take action if a loved one suffered from neglect or outright abuse in a nursing home. You may be able to hold a nursing home financially responsible with the help of legal counsel. Get a free case review to learn more.

Types of Outright Abuse in Nursing Homes

There are several types of outright nursing home abuse, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse in nursing homes includes things such as striking a senior or purposefully causing other forms of physical pain. Signs of physical abuse may include unexplained injuries such as bruises or broken bones. Another sign may be malnutrition or dehydration if food or water are being withheld.

A nurse in a New Jersey care facility pulled an elderly resident up from the toilet by their hair. The resident suffered from mental impairments and wouldn’t get up on their own. In another case at the same facility, a nurse hit a resident who had started screaming in the shower.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse includes intimidation, insults, yelling, making a senior feel distressed, or preventing them from seeing other residents and family members. Common signs of emotional abuse include depression and anxiety or becoming emotionally withdrawn.

Two aides in a Chicago nursing home taunted a 91-year-old woman with dementia using a gown, causing her emotional distress. The aides posted a video of the abuse to Snapchat, a popular social media app, and were promptly arrested.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse includes any unwanted touching, kissing, or sexual contact. Common signs of sexual abuse include bruises on or near the genitals, the development of depression or anxiety, or unexplained STDs.

A nursing home in New York failed to report multiple instances of sexual abuse to authorities. A resident was a registered sex offender and repeatedly harmed a female resident who suffered from dementia.

Outright Nursing Home Abuse vs. Neglect

Outright abuse is not the same thing as nursing home neglect, although both are very dangerous. What separates outright abuse from gross neglect is intent.

Purposefully harming seniors is outright nursing home abuse, while making a dangerous mistake is gross negligence.

Examples of nursing home neglect include:

  • Failing to change soiled clothes or bedsheets
  • Forgetting to reposition elders at risk of bedsores
  • Making a mistake with an elder’s medication

Neglect can be just as harmful as outright abuse in nursing homes. Thankfully, nursing home neglect can be reported in the same way that outright abuse can. You may be able to hold neglectful nursing homes legally accountable.

How Often Does Outright Abuse Occur In Nursing Homes?

Outright abuse in nursing homes is all too common.

In a 2020 report from the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Nearly 1/3rd of staff admitted to psychologically harming residents
  • 1 in 10 staff members said they had physically abused residents
  • 1% had sexually abused residents

Sadly, these numbers may even be higher as nursing home abuse is chronically underreported. Many elders suffer from abuse and are unable or unwilling to report it, meaning staff members get away with their heinous acts.

It is vital for residents and their families to keep an eye open for nursing home abuse and to report it.

Take Action Against Outright Abuse In Nursing Homes

If an older person you love may have suffered from neglect or outright nursing home abuse, don’t wait to take action. It’s crucial to get your loved one out of danger as soon as possible.

Take action against outright abuse in nursing homes by:

  • Calling 911 in the event of an emergency
  • Getting your loved one to a hospital if they’ve suffered serious injuries
  • Speaking with a nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your legal options
  • Talking to a nursing home ombudsman or Adult Protective Services (APS)

Our team may be able to help you find a skilled nursing home abuse attorney right now. Get a free case review to see if you can work with a lawyer.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: August 2, 2021

View 4 References
  1. “Elder Abuse.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse.

  2. “Nurse Charged with Neglect in Death of Riverside Nursing Home Resident.” Associated Press. https://ktla.com/news/local-news/nurse-charged-with-neglect-in-death-of-riverside-nursing-home-resident/.

  3. “Nursing Home Staffers Accused of Taunting 91-Year-Old Dementia Patient in Snapchat Video.” Fieldstadt, E. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nursing-home-staffers-accused-taunting-91-year-old-dementia-patient-n1041366.

  4. Nylander, Chorus. “N4T Investigators: Tucson Nursing Home Nurse Fired after Patient Sexual Abuse Allegations.” KVOA, 20 July 2021, kvoa.com/news/n4t-investigators/2021/07/19/n4t-investigators-tucson-nursing-home-nurse-fired-after-patient-sexual-abuse-allegations/.