Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse is the mistreatment of older adults in assisted living facilities. It is tragically common, with as many as 1 in 3 older adults having been victims of nursing home abuse. Abuse takes many forms, all of which can ruin a senior’s health or lead to fatal outcomes. Residents and family members can help protect themselves and reduce the long-term effects of nursing home abuse by knowing the signs and reporting them early on.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities through negligence or intentional actions. 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. All of these factors can cause nursing home staff members to take out their frustrations on the very people they’re supposed to care for.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take if an older person you love has suffered from nursing home abuse. First, you can help keep them safe by reporting the abuse to proper authorities. You can also seek financial compensation to pay for your loved one’s medical care and other expenses.

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Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

  • Some nursing home abuse statistics indicate that as many as 1 in 3 older people have been victims of nursing home abuse.
  • 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.
  • Some studies revealed that only 53% of incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect actually get reported.

Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

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

Types of nursing home abuse include:

  • 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.
  • Emotional abuse: This type of abuse includes screaming at or taunting residents or even isolating them from friends and family. While it may not leave physical marks, it can be just as harmful. Nursing home residents that are emotionally abused may suffer from anxiety and depression.
  • Nursing home neglect: Some nursing home residents may be left unattended, putting them in danger. Older adults who are neglected or abandoned can suffer from malnutrition, infections, and bedsores, among other problems.
  • Sexual abuse: Those who live in nursing homes can also 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.
  • Financial abuse: Nursing home residents may have trouble managing their money, putting them at risk of exploitation. For example, two nursing home employees stole over $750,000 from a resident with dementia before they were caught.

Nursing Home Abuse Causes

There are many reasons why elder abuse occurs in nursing homes and care facilities. Typically, it is the result of unqualified and unfit caregivers.

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.

Another factor that causes nursing home abuse is the chronic staff shortages that many nursing facilities face. Without adequate staffing, nursing home residents cannot get the proper care and attention that they need. Over time, chronic neglect due to a lack of staff can cause many additional physical and emotional issues.

No matter the causes of nursing home abuse in a particular case, it is always dangerous and entirely 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 critical to protect victims and prevent continued abuse and neglect. Signs of nursing home abuse can range from subtle neglect to full physical abuse.

Physical signs of abuse are often the first to be recognized. This is because serious injuries like broken bones and fractures or bruises and welts are difficult to hide. They quickly become apparent to family members and others who work with the elderly person.

Signs of physical nursing home abuse include:

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

Unfortunately, signs of sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse and exploitation are sometimes harder to identify. For this reason, these types of nursing home abuse may continue for a longer time before the problem is recognized and addressed. Below, learn the signs of these other abuse types.

Emotional abuse warning signs include:

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

Common signs of nursing home neglect include:

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

Sexual abuse warning signs include:

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

Signs of financial abuse include: 

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

Different injuries and symptoms may appear in each individual nursing home abuse case. The extent to which abuse is carried out determines the severity of the injuries and symptoms that take place.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse Among Staff

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

Staff actions that may indicate nursing home abuse include:

  • Failure to respond to residents’ requests for assistance
  • Unresponsiveness to concerns about conflicts between residents
  • Improperly administering medications
  • Showing disrespect or poor attitudes toward residents
  • Poor planning when it comes to moving residents between floors or rooms

It’s important to notice these staff behaviors in addition to any injuries your family member or 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 suspect that you or your loved one is a victim of abuse. Bringing your concerns to the attention of proper authorities allows healing to begin and justice to be sought.

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

Family members may not always know for sure if a nursing home resident’s injuries stem from abuse. In these cases, it may be better to 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 determine whether 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 care and medical staff
  • Nursing home administrative staff
  • Other nursing home residents

If abuse and neglect persist without consequence, it creates a culture that accepts nursing home abuse as a way of business. This is why it is essential to record all incidents and injuries and report nursing home abuse as soon as possible.

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

After reporting nursing home abuse or neglect to proper 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.

This money can help pay for:

  • Hospital stays
  • Funeral costs
  • 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 on your behalf
  • File the claim within state deadlines
  • Work to retrieve the highest amount of compensation possible

Experienced nursing home lawyers have seen the effects of abuse firsthand and understand how it can harm families. These attorneys will work tirelessly on your behalf to hold nursing home staff members financially responsible.

Nursing Home Abuse Laws

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

Residents of nursing homes hold the right to a safe living environment free of physical abuse, mistreatment, and neglect. Additionally, elders residing in nursing homes also have the right to actively participate in decisions regarding their own personal care.

It is important for families and victims to know and understand their own personal rights when it comes to conduct within nursing home facilities. This will help them prevent and correct abusive and neglectful outcomes.

A nursing home abuse lawyer can tell you more about how these laws may affect a case.

Nursing Home Abuse FAQs

How can understanding nursing home abuse help me?

With information and education, victims and their families can better understand the risks, signs, and different types of nursing home abuse committed against seniors.

Additionally, education about nursing home abuse provides victims and families with important information about their personal rights and which actions to take to stop and prevent nursing home abuse.

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.

Reach out to an attorney to see if you can access compensation through a lawsuit.

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

Get a Free Case Review

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:

  • Cognitive illness like Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mental illness
  • Physical disabilities
  • Being wealthy or having access to wealth
  • Being female, a veteran, or identifying as LGBTQ+
  • Having additional and extensive personal care needs

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

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

You can help prevent nursing home abuse by:

  • Understanding its many forms
  • Recognizing the signs and causes
  • Reporting suspected abuse or neglect to authorities
  • Taking legal action against nursing home staff if needed

Nursing home facilities that are held accountable are less likely to conduct themselves in neglectful and abusive manners. This can prevent other residents and families from suffering the effects of nursing home abuse or neglect.

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 today with a free case review. You may be able to hold abusive staff members financially accountable.

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: January 7, 2021

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  3. Chris Elkins. (2018, April 17). Despite National Efforts, Nursing Home Abuse Continues in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.drugwatch.com/nursing-home-abuse/.

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  7. Brett Kelman. (2018, July 30). New patients barred at Knoxville nursing home after woman with broken knees left in agony for 9 days. https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2018/07/30/knoxville-elder-abuse-nursing-home-westmoreland/866232002/

  8. CNN. (2017). Sick, dying and raped in America’s nursing homes. Retrieved January 07, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/

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