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 reporting them early on.

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. 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. 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.
  • Some studies revealed that only 53% of incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect actually get reported.

Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

The term “nursing home abuse” often brings to mind physical injuries. However, it may also include financial exploitation, 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.

Types of nursing home abuse include:

  • Emotional abuse: This type of abuse includes screaming at or taunting residents. 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 are emotionally abused may suffer from anxiety and depression.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.

Nursing Home Abuse Causes

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

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 due to a lack of staff can cause many additional 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.

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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 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.

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

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
  • Developing aggressive or violent behavior
  • Lowered confidence and self-worth
  • 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 individual nursing home abuse case. The extent of the abuse determines the symptoms and how serious they are.

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 administering medications
  • Poor planning when it comes to moving residents between floors or rooms
  • Showing disrespect or poor attitudes toward residents
  • Unresponsiveness to concerns about conflicts between 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 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.

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

If abuse and neglect are not reported, it creates a culture that accepts nursing home abuse. This is why it is key to record all incidents and injuries and report nursing home abuse as soon as possible.

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.

This money 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 on your behalf
  • 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 and know how it harms families. These attorneys will work on your behalf to hold nursing home staff members 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 space free of abuse. Additionally, elderly residents of nursing homes also have the right to actively participate in decisions regarding their own personal 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 nursing home abuse lawyer can tell you more about how these laws may affect a case.

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

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 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.

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

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

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: March 30, 2021

View 9 References
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  2. Joel McLaughlin. (n.d.) The Various Types of Nursing Home Abuse & neglect. Retrieved from https://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=22933.

  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/.

  4. http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/Elder_Rights/Ombudsman/index.aspx

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, May 17). Elder Abuse: Consequences. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/consequences.html.

  6. http://www.aoa.acl.gov/AoA_Programs/Elder_Rights/EA_Prevention/whatIsEA.aspx

  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/

  9. Dudek, M. (2020, November 11). Lincoln Park nursing home seeks gag order on public guardian about 99-year-old allegedly bilked of $750,000. Retrieved January 07, 2021, from https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/11/10/21559043/grace-watanabe-symphony-residences-nursing-home-public-guardian-theft-life-savings