Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing home abuse takes many different forms. Residents of nursing homes and other care facilities can be physically, emotionally, financially, or sexually abused in a place that is supposed to take care of them. Caregivers can also neglect or abandon vulnerable residents for days, weeks, or even months. Below, learn about the different types of nursing home abuse and how to take action when they occur.

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Reviewed by Julie Rivers, MBA , Eldercare Advocate & Expert

7 Types of Abuse in a Nursing Home

An elderly woman sitting in a nursing home looks out the window with concern.

Nursing home residents have legally protected rights and deserve the best care possible. Sadly, far too many people in nursing homes suffer due to physical assault, neglect, and other forms of abuse.

Here are 7 types of abuse nursing home facilities may fail to prevent:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Neglect of a resident’s basic needs
  3. Sexual assault
  4. Emotional abuse
  5. Financial exploitation
  6. Abandonment
  7. Self-neglect

Every one of the nursing home types of abuse can cause serious harm. Therefore, residents, family, and friends should become familiarized with the types of abuse in nursing homes and their warning signs. Taking early action against all types of nursing home abuse can prevent long-term harm.

Get a free case review if you or a loved one has suffered from abuse or mistreatment in a nursing home. You may be entitled to financial compensation to cover medical bills and other expenses for the harm done.

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Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), there are 5 types of abuse in a nursing home that are most commonly reported: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse. Additional types of abuse in nursing homes include self-neglect and abandonment.

Learn about common types of nursing home abuse below.

Physical Abuse

Physical nursing home abuse occurs when a resident suffers bodily harm or injuries inflicted by a caregiver or another resident. Over 9% of nursing home staff members admitted to physically abusing residents in a 2020 study from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Examples of physical abuse in a nursing home include:

  • Being punched or kicked
  • Being restrained with straps or ties
  • Getting pushed or shoved

Common signs of physical abuse among residents include broken bones, bruises, and bleeding. Physical abuse can be committed against any resident, but those with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease may be at higher risk.

Physical nursing home abuse can lead to serious injuries or even death without proper medical attention. Thankfully, financial aid may be available to pay for medical bills and emotional suffering if you or a loved one experienced physical nursing home abuse.

Nursing home residents and their family members can file personal injury claims against the facility to receive compensation.

For example, an older resident who was beaten and suffered from neglect received $175,000 by working with a skilled nursing home law firm.

Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect occurs when staff members fail to provide proper medical care. As a result, the resident’s physical and emotional well-being suffers.

An elderly man using a wheelchair looks out a nursing home window.

Neglect is different from nursing home abuse. Abuse is a deliberate act performed to harm someone, while nursing home neglect stems from carelessness on the part of staff. Rates of carelessness often increase by understaffing, a widespread and chronic problem in nursing homes nationwide.

Examples of nursing home neglect include:

Medication Errors

Nursing home residents may rely on staff to receive medications. However, staff members may make mistakes when giving medications to residents. This can cause serious or even life-threatening complications.

Poor Personal Hygiene

Nursing home staff members must maintain each resident’s personal hygiene by changing their clothes and helping to wash them. If they fail to do so, a nursing home resident may wear dirty or soiled clothes for hours or days and develop health problems.

Dehydration and Malnutrition

Nursing home staff members may not give enough food or water to residents. Residents may suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, or severe weight loss as a result.

Take Legal Action

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Other Issues

Other examples of nursing home neglect include:

  • Failing to quickly report injuries/illnesses to doctors/family
  • Ignoring a resident’s complaints
  • Leaving residents unattended for periods of time

Neglecting a nursing home resident can have horrifying results. For example, a woman living in a nursing home developed severe bedsores and was left to lie in her own feces due to neglect.

The woman also told loved ones she once wasn’t fed in two or three days and that the staff wasn’t giving her needed medications.

After filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit, the woman and her family received $407,000.

Was your loved one neglected or abused in a nursing home? Call (800) 896-7040 or chat with our team now to seek swift justice.

Sexual Abuse

This type of abuse occurs when a resident experiences any form of unwanted sexual contact, touching, or groping. Sexual elder abuse can lead to physical harm like bruises, scratches, or sexually transmitted diseases, as well as emotional trauma.

Alarmingly, sexual elder abuse is often committed against residents who are disabled or unable to give consent.

In a recent case, a female nursing home resident complained that a male staff member tried to sexually assault her before she screamed, and he fled. The resident also suffered neglect due to untreated bedsores and pneumonia. With legal help, the resident and her family secured $175,000.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse (also known as verbal or psychological abuse) occurs when someone insults a resident or uses threats to control them. It is the most commonly occurring of all the nursing home types of abuse.

According to the WHO, over 32% of nursing home staff members said they emotionally abused residents.

Examples of emotional elder abuse include:

  • Controlling a resident’s activities against their will
  • Insulting the resident’s appearance or intelligence
  • Isolating seniors from family, friends, and other residents
  • Making threats

Residents that suffer from emotional elder abuse can develop long-term mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Signs that a loved one has been emotionally abused include negative changes in their mood or behavior.

Financial Abuse

Financial elder abuse occurs when someone steals from an older person or uses manipulation to get money from them.

Examples of financial abuse include:

  • Misusing power of attorney to change a resident’s will
  • Preventing the resident from accessing their own bank account
  • Stealing a resident’s cash, credit cards, or valuables
  • Stealing a resident’s financial records or bank statements

While there may not be physical harm involved in financial abuse, it can be just as damaging as the other nursing home types of abuse. Not only can it cause extreme anxiety, but it can also mean residents are robbed of the money they need to pay for their long-term care.

Elder Abandonment

Elder abandonment often occurs when a caregiver leaves an older person who needs help from another alone to fend for themselves. While it is one of the less common nursing home types of abuse, residents can also be abandoned by assisted living facilities.

In 2020, the New York Times reported on a facility in California that kicked out a resident with dementia and dropped him off at a halfway house. The facility didn’t inform the victim’s family members, and he was found wandering the streets alone.

Help is available if your loved one suffered from nursing home abuse. Call (800) 896-7040 to get started.

Self-Neglect

Self-neglect occurs when an older adult cannot take care of themself, leading to severe health issues.

Self-neglect may occur if an older adult lives alone in a house or apartment. However, nursing home staff members may be responsible if a resident is showing any signs of neglect while living in the facility.

Who Commits the Different Types of Nursing Home Abuse?

Various people could be guilty of committing the different types of nursing home abuse. Common perpetrators include nursing home staff, administrators, other residents, and even family members.

Nursing Home Staff

Staff members may abuse residents out of frustration or anger. They may also neglect to care for a resident’s basic health needs if they haven’t been properly trained or if the facility is understaffed.

That being said, there is no excuse for staff to harm nursing home residents. Any staff member that has abused or neglected an older person deserves to be punished for their actions.

Nursing Home Administrators

Administrators of long-term care facilities make decisions that affect the standard of care residents receive.

Unfortunately, administrators may get greedy and put profits ahead of care by hiring poor-quality staff members, understaffing their facility, or failing to take measures to keep the property safe.

Administrative staff can also commit emotional or verbal abuse against residents. This can occur by delaying responses to serious problems and concerns or withholding information from them.

Other Nursing Home Residents

Other residents can also commit nursing home abuse. If nursing home staff members fail to keep dangerous residents from harming others, they might bear some of the blame too.

Did You Know?
Staff members at a facility in Florida knew three of its residents were sexually abusive but took no action despite repeated incidents. The state banned the facility from adding new residents until it finally removed the abusers.

Family Members

Family members visiting older relatives in nursing homes can also commit abuse.

The nursing home is responsible for protecting residents from abuse — even when it’s carried out by a family member. Staff members must take note of interactions between family members and recognize possible signs of abuse.

Nursing home staff must also take all complaints seriously regarding their residents’ relationships with visiting family members.

Take Legal Action

If your loved one has suffered, connect with a trusted attorney today.

Get a Free Case Review

Reporting Nursing Home Types of Abuse

All types of nursing home abuse are unacceptable. Thankfully, there are steps you can take if an older resident you love has been harmed in a nursing home.

You can:

  1. Call 911 if a nursing home resident is in immediate danger
  2. Report abuse cases to your state’s ombudsman or Adult Protective Services (APS)
  3. Connect with a nursing home abuse attorney to pursue justice and compensation

Our team of skilled advocates can recommend the next steps after abuse or neglect. Get a free consultation right now to start the process.

FAQs About Types of Nursing Home Abuse

What are the most common types of nursing home abuse?

The most common 5 types of abuse in a nursing home are physical abuse, neglect, sexual assault, financial exploitation, and emotional abuse. While these types of nursing home abuse are reported in care facilities across the country, they are never okay. No one should suffer from any of the types of nursing home abuse since it is the primary duty of care facilities to keep residents safe.

What are the warning signs of the different types of nursing home abuse?

Warning signs can vary depending on which types of nursing home abuse have occurred. However, a common red flag to watch out for is a noticeable change in mood or behavior that can not be explained. Additionally, broken bones, bruises, and an overall decline in health can mean that abuse or neglect is occurring.

How can I get help for different types of nursing home abuse?

You can get help for different types of nursing home abuse by contacting authorities.

Local police, elder protective services, and nursing home abuse attorneys may all be able to help. Always call 911 in the event of a medical emergency.

If you want to connect with an elder abuse lawyer who can pursue compensation for you, we can help. Get started with a free case review right now.

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

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Reviewed by:
Julie Rivers, MBA
Fact Checked

Julie Rivers is an eldercare advocate with over 15 years of dedicated service to victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Her journey in this field became deeply personal when she assumed the role of an unpaid caregiver during her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

ReferencesView References
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 22). Fast Facts: Preventing Elder Abuse. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/consequences.html.
  2. Cowan, K. (2018, December 12). Report: Ruskin assisted living facility ignored abusive behavior among residents. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/report-ruskin-assisted-living-facility-ignored-abusive-behavior-among-residents.
  3. Hirt J., Adlbrecht L., Heinrich S., & Zeller A. Staff-to-resident abuse in nursing homes: a scoping review. BMC Geriatr. 2022 Jul 6;22(1):563. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9261065/
  4. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.). Research statistics and data. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from https://ncea.acl.gov/What-We-Do/Research/Statistics-and-Data.aspx
  5. National Institute on Aging. (2020, July 29). Elder Abuse. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/elder-abuse#help.
  6. Payne, M. and Mills, R. (2018, December 13). Stella Budich died from bowel blockage at Tarpon Point Nursing and Rehabilitation. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from https://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/florida/2018/12/13/florida-nursing-home-death-stella-budich-bowel-blockage-tarpon-point-nursing-rehabilitation/2302346002/.
  7. Silver-Greenberg, J., & Harris, A. (2020, June 21). ‘They just dumped him like trash’: Nursing homes evict vulnerable residents. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/business/nursing-homes-evictions-discharges-coronavirus.html
  8. World Health Organization. (2022, June 13). Elder abuse. Retrieved May 21, 2023, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse