Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Researchers conduct studies on nursing home abuse and compile statistics to better understand this prevalent issue and how it can be prevented in the future. Nursing home abuse statistics study how, why, and when harm comes to older adults in assisted living facilities. Find some of the most important nursing home abuse statistics below.

Importance of Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Even though nursing home abuse is a well-known problem, it is still misunderstood by many. Fortunately, nursing home and elder abuse statistics allow us to better understand the overall issue and why it occurs.

Nursing home abuse statistics provide snapshots of why abuse occurs, who is most at risk, and what can be done if someone is suffering from abuse.

Our team has compiled and organized dozens of nursing home abuse statistics from leading organizations like the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).

Use these statistics to get answers to questions and learn how you can help your loved ones.

How Common Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse affects thousands of families each year. In 2014 alone, over 14,000 complaints filed with nursing home ombudsmen were about abuse or neglect. Further, in 2013, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) found that nearly 10,000 nursing home residents filed complaints related to abuse.

The NCVC’s breakdown of nursing home abuse complaints is as follows:

  • 27.4% – Physical abuse
  • 22.1% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
  • 19.4% – Psychological abuse
  • 15.3% – Gross neglect
  • 7.9% – Sexual abuse
  • 7.9% – Financial exploitation

Nursing home abuse is just one part of the larger problem with elder abuse. As many as 5,000,000 people are affected by elder abuse every single year, according to the NCOA.

Like all other crimes, though, not every case of nursing home abuse gets reported, and researchers are trying to determine exact figures. This is further complicated by the fact that some seniors may be unwilling — or unable — to report their experiences.

“Unfortunately, we simply do not know for certain how many people are suffering from elder abuse and neglect.”

– The National Center on Elder Abuse

Who Is at Risk?

Any older person in an assisted living facility may suffer from nursing home abuse. That said, some may be at a higher risk than others. Examples of risk factors that increase the chances of nursing home abuse are outlined below.

Women are more likely to be abused than men. In fact, the NCVC found that 66% of elder abuse victims were women.

Socioeconomic Status
Researchers have found a link between lower socioeconomic status and elder abuse. For example, elderly persons who rely on Medicaid to receive nursing home care may wind up staying at facilities that are of lower quality.

Past Trauma
Individuals who have been abused or experienced traumatic events in the past are more likely to be victims of abuse again in the future, according to the NCEA.

Health Problems
Poor mental and physical health may increase the risk of abuse, according to the NCEA. Those who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The NCOA and NCEA both report that nearly 50% of elders with dementia experience abuse or neglect.

Who Does the Abusing?

Anyone can commit elder or nursing home abuse, but family members and nursing home staff are some of the most common culprits.

Family Members

Unfortunately, family members are behind many cases of elder abuse. The NCOA found that relatives account for 6 of every 10 elder abuse cases. In 66% of these cases, a spouse or adult child is the perpetrator. Mental health and substance abuse problems may increase the risk of elder mistreatment.

In-Home Caregivers

As an alternative to nursing home living, nurses or other caregivers can be hired to help an older person in their own home. However, these caregivers may also commit neglect or abuse.

Nursing Home Staff Members

Staff members that are frustrated, exhausted, or manipulative may harm the residents they’re supposed to care for. A 2020 study from the WHO found that over 64% of nursing home staff members admitted to committing some form of abuse or neglect.

Other Nursing Home Residents

Staff members are not the only ones to worry about in long-term care facilities — other residents are just as capable of committing abuse. For example, in 2021, a nursing home resident who was also a registered sex offender assaulted another resident multiple times. In this case, the nursing home was also at fault, as administrators failed to report the assaults to police.

Environments That Can Lead To Abuse

While abuse can happen anywhere to anyone, some environmental factors, described below, can increase the likelihood of abuse.

Poor-Quality Nursing Homes

Nursing homes and eldercare facilities that lack proper resources and trustworthy staff can create a higher risk of elder abuse. For example, ongoing understaffing causes employee stress, burnout, and resentment that can lead to abuse and neglect. Negative employee attitudes can foster unsympathetic environments for residents.

Additionally, ineffective administration and policies can allow abuse to go unreported.

Social Isolation

Elders are more likely to be abused if they don’t have relatives or close friends checking in on them often. Family and friends can monitor for possible signs of nursing home abuse or neglect more efficiently through regular visits.

Household Size

The NCEA reports that the more people that live in a household with an older person, the greater the risk that elder abuse may occur.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics by Type

Nursing home abuse comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial, and it is not always obvious. Below, get statistics about the different types of nursing home abuse.

Physical Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Physical nursing home abuse occurs when a patient is harmed by force (such as a shove, punch, or slap). It can lead to long-term health problems like concussions and broken bones or death.

  • A recent study reported that 24.3% of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a nursing home.
  • Outside of nursing homes, spouses or partners made up nearly 60% of all perpetrators of physical abuse, according to the NCVC.
  • Physical elder abuse cases seem to be increasing. The CDC found that the rate of assaults against men aged 60 or older increased by 75% from 2002 to 2016. There was an over 35% increase in the number of physical assaults against older women in the same timeframe.

Emotional Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Elders can also be emotionally abused with threats, intimidation, social isolation, and more.

  • Emotional abuse was the most prevalent type reported by nursing home staff members, according to a 2020 WHO study. Nearly 1 out of 3 of staff members admitted to emotionally abusing residents.
  • Verbal abuse was the most commonly reported type of elder mistreatment committed by family members, according to a study reported on by the NCEA.
  • 60% of self-reported elder abuse cases involved verbal or emotional harm, according to the NCVC.

Sexual Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Sexual abuse is any form of unwanted sexual contact from another person.

  • Sexual abuse was the least commonly reported form of abuse in a 2020 WHO study. Less than 2% of nursing home residents (or their representatives) reported sexual abuse cases. Staff reports of sexual abuse were under 1%.
  • The vast majority of those who commit sexual abuse in nursing homes are men, according to a 2015 study. However, women were also have found to have committed sexual abuse in some cases.
  • Those who commit sexual abuse in nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities may target residents who have disabilities or illnesses such as dementia.
  • Nursing home residents aged 79 and older were at a higher risk of sexual abuse, according to the 2015 study.

Financial Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Financial abuse happens when an individual’s financial resources are exploited or withheld.

  • Elders are more likely to report financial abuse than any of the other forms, according to the NCOA.
  • The NCEA reported that family members were by far the most likely people to financially abuse elders. Nearly 60% of all elder financial abuse cases involved a family member.
  • 1 in 20 older adults indicated they had suffered from financial abuse, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA).

Statistics About Nursing Home Neglect

Neglect is the failure to provide an elder’s basic life necessities, such as food, housing, health care, or hygiene. While it may not always be intentional, nursing home neglect can have just as serious consequences as abuse.

  • Just as elder abuse is broken up into several types, NAPSA breaks down neglect into subsets. These include physical, emotional, and financial neglect, as well as elder abandonment (where a caregiver leaves an older adult alone) and self-neglect.
  • 12% of nursing home staff members reported neglecting the needs of residents, according to a 2020 report from the WHO. Nearly 12% of residents or their families also reported cases of nursing home neglect in the same study.
  • According to a 2014 review of previous studies, neglect had the highest prevalence out of any other type of elder mistreatment in the United States.
  • Not every state has the same definition of elder or nursing home neglect. The NAPSA recommends checking local definitions with your state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) to learn more.

Consequences of Elder & Nursing Home Abuse

No matter where elder abuse takes place — in a nursing home or a personal residence — it can devastate a senior’s life and cause a lot of pain for their family. It can also lead to wide-ranging financial problems.

Health-Related Consequences

  • Victims of elder abuse are 300% more likely to die than those who were not harmed
  • Hospitalization is three times as likely to occur if an elder is abused
  • Elders who have been abused are 4 times more likely to end up in a nursing home
  • Abuse can also lead to future disabilities and medical issues
  • The NCEA found that elders suffering from higher rates of abuse were also at an increased risk of depression and other psychological problems

Economic Consequences

  • The NCOA reports that at least $36.5 billion is lost each year due to cases of elder financial abuse
  • Violent crime injuries among elders are responsible for $5.3 billion in annual medical care costs
  • NAPSA also notes that these numbers do not account for the financial losses due to other types of abuse, meaning the total may be much higher

Why Aren’t Elder and Nursing Home Abuse Cases Reported?

The NCVC found that for every case of elder abuse that’s reported, 24 are not.

Reporting rates are so low for a few reasons:

Mental or Physical Impairments

Problems like dementia, deafness, or blindness can all make it harder for nursing home residents to properly file reports or identify perpetrators.

Fear of Retaliation

Even if a resident is not impaired, they may fear that the abuser will find out if they file a report and inflict even more harm.

This is why it’s crucial for loved ones to regularly monitor the well-being of a resident and report nursing home abuse if necessary. Branches of the APS, a long-term care ombudsman, and even the police can help families address possible cases of nursing home abuse head on.

Families can also work with nursing home abuse lawyers to pursue financial compensation and justice for the harm done to their loved one.

Nursing Home Abuse Is a Growing Danger

As the population of adults aged 65 and older is expected to increase over the next several decades, the issues of elder and nursing home abuse are likely to become even more prominent. However, family members and loved ones can take steps to protect their loved ones.

“Elder abuse will not stop on its own. Someone else needs to step in and help.”

– National Institute on Aging (NIA)

Here’s what to do if you or someone you know is being abused:

  • Review the nursing home statistics above and note if you or a loved one is at risk
  • Tell someone you trust
  • Keep a record and evidence of the abuse if you are able to
  • Report the abuse to proper authorities in your state

If you are also considering legal assistance, take the first step and get a free case review from our team. We can review your situation and help you connect to a trust law firm if you qualify.

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 12, 2021

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