Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse is the mistreatment of older adults in assisted living facilities. It is an all-too-common problem. In fact, 66% of nursing home staff members admitted to abusing residents in a 2020 study from the World Health Organization (WHO). Residents and family members can reduce the risks of nursing home abuse by knowing the signs and quickly reporting them.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities. Both intentional and unintentional harm may be considered abuse. It can result in trauma, medical emergencies, and even death.

Sadly, nursing home abuse is a prevalent problem due to issues like understaffing, improper training, and burnout. These factors can cause staff members to take out their anger on the people they should care for or prevent them from responding to urgent situations like falls or strokes.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take if an older person you love has suffered from nursing home abuse. First, you can keep them safe by reporting abuse to proper authorities, like the police, Adult Protective Services (APS), or a lawyer.

You can also seek financial compensation to pay for your loved one’s medical care and other expenses with legal help.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

  • As many as 1 in 3 older people have been victims of nursing home abuse. Further, 2 in 3 staff members surveyed by the WHO claimed they had abused or neglected residents.
  • A study from 2012 found that as many as 85% of assisted living facilities reported at least one case of abuse or neglect — but this number may actually be much higher.
  • In a 2019 NPR report, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that 97% of nursing home abuse cases across 5 states were not reported to local law enforcement as required.

Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

The term “nursing home abuse” often brings to mind physical injuries. However, it may also include sexual battery, emotional harm, and other issues. It’s important to know which type of nursing home abuse your loved one is suffering from so you can properly help them.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse includes any type of action that harms an older person’s psychological well-being. Examples of emotional abuse include staff yelling at residents or taunting them.

Staff members may also try to isolate the resident from friends and family. While it may not leave physical marks, it can be just as harmful. Nursing home residents that suffer from emotional abuse may experience anxiety and depression.

Nursing Home Neglect

Some nursing home residents may be left unattended for extended periods of time and put in danger. Nursing home neglect can lead to malnutrition, infections, and bedsores, among other problems.

Physical Abuse

If nursing home staff members knowingly cause physical harm to residents, they are committing abuse. Common examples of physical abuse include pushing, kicking, and hitting.

Sexual Abuse

Those who live in nursing homes can suffer from sexual battery. This type of abuse includes any form of unwanted sexual activity.

A 2017 CNN report explored cases where nursing home residents had been sexually abused by staff members. In total, the report found over 1,000 nursing home facilities across the country received citations for mismanaging sexual abuse cases.

Other Types of Abuse

Nursing home residents are also at risk of mismanaging their money, putting them at risk of elder financial abuse. For example, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that two nursing home employees stole over $750,000 from a resident with dementia before they were caught.

Finally, older adults may not be able to properly care for themselves, leading to cases of self-neglect.

Call (800) 896-7040 now if your loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse. Financial compensation may be available.

Nursing Home Abuse Causes

There are many reasons why elder abuse occurs in nursing homes and care facilities. Typically, it occurs when caregivers are unfit to help older people.

When nursing home employees are not properly trained, they can become easily frustrated and stressed. While many employees have healthy ways of coping, some take out their stress by harming the residents.

Chronic staff shortages can also make abuse more likely. Without adequate staffing, nursing home residents cannot get the proper care and attention that they need. Over time, chronic neglect can cause many long-term physical and emotional issues.

No matter the causes of nursing home abuse, it is always dangerous and unacceptable.

For example, a bedridden nursing home resident with dementia died after she fell on her knees while a nurse changed her bedsheets in 2017.

The fall caused her to fracture both of her knees, but the staff didn’t get a doctor until nine days later. By the time the resident entered the hospital, her condition had worsened and she could not recover.

Nursing Home Abuse Warning Signs

Recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse is key to protect victims and prevent more harm from being done. Signs of nursing home abuse can range from subtle neglect to full-on physical abuse.

Physical signs of abuse are often the first to be recognized. Serious injuries like broken bones, bruises, and welts are difficult to hide.

Signs of physical nursing home abuse include:

  • Bedsores or pressure ulcers
  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Bruises, burns, and welts on the skin
  • Cuts, lacerations, and skin tears
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Fatigue, insomnia, or other sleep disorders
  • Head and dental injuries
  • Illness or infection
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Other nursing home injuries

Unfortunately, signs of the other types of abuse are sometimes harder to identify. As a result, they may continue for a longer time before the problem is addressed.

Emotional abuse warning signs include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Lowered confidence and self-worth
  • Onset of aggressive or violent behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Trauma and PTSD symptoms

Common signs of nursing home neglect include:

  • Bedsores
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • New or worsening infections
  • Unchanged, filthy clothes or bed sheets

Sexual abuse warning signs include:

  • Bruises or welts around the genitals
  • Inappropriate physical contact with staff members
  • Unexplainable STDs

Signs of financial abuse include:

  • New changes to the power of attorney
  • Opening new credit cards or bank accounts
  • Strange transactions or charges

Different injuries and symptoms may appear in each nursing home abuse case. The extent of the abuse determines the symptoms and how serious they are.

If you notice any nursing home abuse warning signs, get a free case review — compensation may be available.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

Get a Free Case Review

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse Among Staff

The actions — or lack thereof — of nursing home staff members also may be warning signs of abuse or neglect.

Staff actions that may indicate nursing home abuse include:

  • Failure to respond to residents’ requests for assistance
  • Improperly giving medications
  • Not responding to concerns about conflicts between residents
  • Poor planning when it comes to moving residents between floors or rooms
  • Showing disrespect or poor attitudes toward residents

It’s important to note these staff behaviors along with any injuries your loved one has suffered. Keeping detailed notes on these factors can make it easier to report nursing home abuse later on.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

It is crucial to speak up if you or your loved one has been abused or neglected. Bringing your concerns to proper authorities allows healing to begin and justice to be sought.

Always call 911 in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

You might not know for sure if a nursing home resident’s injuries stem from abuse. In these cases, you can contact your state’s branch of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program or Adult Protective Services (APS).

These agencies check on the welfare of nursing home residents to see if they are being abused. You can find locations of agencies near you and nursing home hotlines to call by visiting our resources page. We have phone numbers for agencies in every state.

Complaints can be filed against:

  • Nursing home administrative staff
  • Nursing home caregivers and medical staff
  • Other nursing home residents

If abuse and neglect are not reported, it’s likely that it will continue. This is why it is key to report nursing home abuse as soon as possible.

Nursing Home Abuse Laws

Federal and state nursing home abuse laws are in place to ensure facilities provide high-quality care to residents.

These laws grant nursing home residents:

  • The ability to file lawsuits if they are mistreated
  • The right to a safe living space free of abuse
  • The right to participate in decisions regarding their care

Families and nursing home residents need to know their rights early on. This can help prevent abuse or ensure it is addressed before it causes long-term harm.

A skilled nursing home abuse lawyer can tell you how these laws may affect your case.

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

After reporting nursing home abuse to the right authorities, it may be in your best interest to contact a lawyer.

A nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help you and your loved ones get compensation while holding abusive staff members responsible.

In some cases, other victims who worked with nursing home abuse lawyers have received millions of dollars.

For example, the family of a woman with dementia who died weeks after staying in a nursing home received over $2 million in 2019 with legal help. The jury in the case determined the nursing home was responsible for her death.

Money that lawyers secure can help pay for:

  • Funeral costs
  • Hospital stays
  • Other expenses that stem from the abuse

Lawyers may also secure punitive damages, which is extra money the abusers must pay for the harm they caused.

While you may think that filing a lawsuit is time-consuming and complex, you don’t need to worry. Skilled nursing home abuse lawyers make the process easy and stress-free.

Nursing home abuse attorneys can:

  • Gather evidence to build a legal claim
  • File the claim within state deadlines
  • Work to retrieve the highest amount of compensation possible

Nursing home lawyers have seen the effects of abuse firsthand. These attorneys will work on your behalf to hold nursing home staff members responsible.

Call (800) 896-7040 immediately to see if you can work with a nursing home abuse attorney.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

Many instances of nursing home abuse go undetected. Thankfully, it may be possible to prevent it from happening or continuing.

You can help prevent nursing home abuse by:

  • Recognizing the signs and causes
  • Regularly checking in on your loved one
  • Taking preventative measures (like changing nursing homes) if needed

Nursing home facilities that are held accountable are more likely to take action so other residents stay safe.

Our team is dedicated to ending the epidemic of nursing home abuse — and you can join our fight. If you or a loved one suffered from nursing home abuse, see if you can take legal action with a free case review. You may be able to hold abusive staff members financially accountable.

Nursing Home Abuse FAQs

What is considered abuse in a nursing home?

A wide range of scenarios may be considered nursing home abuse. While some are more obvious — such as a staff member hitting a resident — even a single mistake that causes serious harm can be abuse.

Nursing home neglect is also considered abuse. While it may not be malicious, it can cause long-lasting harm.

Contact our team if you or a loved one may have suffered abuse while in a nursing home to pursue justice and compensation.

How can understanding nursing home abuse help me?

Victims and their families can better understand the risks, signs, and types of nursing home abuse through information and education. For example, families that know the signs of abuse can look out for them when visiting an older loved one.

Are there specific risk factors for elder abuse in nursing homes?

Yes. While any nursing home resident may suffer from abuse or neglect, some factors may put certain elders at a greater risk of being abused.

Potential risk factors for elder abuse include:

  • Being female: Women have a very high risk of sexual abuse. In a study published by Justice Quarterly, women accounted for 67% of elder sexual abuse cases.
  • Being a veteran: According to a report from the Federal Practitioner, veterans typically require more medical care and suffer from illnesses like PTSD at higher rates than the general population. These factors put them at a greater risk of abuse.
  • Having a mental illness: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) notes that almost 50% of elders who have mental impairments will suffer from abuse or neglect.
  • Identifying as LGBTQ+: Elders in the LGBTQ+ community may become targets for elder abuse due to their sexual orientation. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) found that 8% of LGBTQ+ elders were physically abused by a caregiver, and nearly 9% were financially exploited or blackmailed. The underlying cause in both cases was homophobia.

If an older person you love may be at a higher risk of elder abuse, don’t wait. Make sure to keep a close watch on them as they live in a nursing home and note any negative changes in their appearance or behavior.

If they’re mentally sound, you can also ask them if a loved one or staff member has harmed or mistreated them in any way. Taking these actions early on can prevent cases of nursing home abuse from worsening.

Can I sue a facility for nursing home abuse or neglect?

It may be possible to file a lawsuit if your loved one suffered from nursing home abuse and neglect. Nursing home abuse lawsuits are a common way that lawyers can secure compensation for victims.

Get a free case review to see if you can access compensation through a lawsuit.

Why does abuse happen in nursing homes?

Nursing home abuse occurs for a variety of reasons. Staff members that are frustrated may take their anger out on the elderly residents they’re supposed to care for through physical, emotional, or sexual harm. Understaffed nursing homes may not have enough staff to care for residents, leading to neglect.

Call (800) 896-7040 immediately to pursue justice if your loved one was abused.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

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: July 22, 2021

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