Are Women At Higher Risk of Nursing Home Abuse?
Yes. While there are challenges to getting statistics on nursing home abuse and neglect due to underreporting, women do seem to be at greater risk of abuse than men. Relevant statistics can suggest nursing home abuse among women is a serious concern.
Women live longer than men, creating a 52% chance that women will spend time in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, while the chance for men is 33%. As a result, women are at a higher risk of abuse partly because they’ll be more likely to end up in a nursing home.
Additionally, women are at an overall greater lifetime risk of abuse than men are.
“Most victims of abuse are women, but some are men. Likely targets are older adults who have no family or friends nearby and people with disabilities, memory problems, or dementia.”
– National Institutes for Health
If an older woman you love has suffered from nursing home abuse, you have options. You can report the abuse to proper authorities and also look into your legal options, as compensation may be available.
Causes of Nursing Home Abuse Among Women
One cause of nursing home abuse among women is dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Two-thirds of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients are women, and many of those affected require some form of home care or residential care. Sadly, a 2009 study revealed that almost 50% of people with dementia are victims of some form of abuse.
Another main cause of nursing home abuse and women is improper staffing in nursing homes.
Improper staffing can include:
- Employees who are forced to work too many hours
- Not enough staff
- Poorly trained staff
These working conditions can make employees feel both overwhelmed and underpaid, turning frustrated staff into likely perpetrators of elder mistreatment.
Sadly, women are also more likely to suffer from certain types of abuse than the general population. For example, a 2015 study found that women were at a much higher risk of sexual abuse in nursing homes than men.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse Women Experience
Women experience all forms of abuse in nursing homes, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse, and neglect. Abusers tend to be staff members or other residents.
Physical abuse occurs when a person causes bodily harm — for example, by hitting, slapping, or pushing another person. Physical nursing home abuse may also include excessive restraints such as being tied to furniture.
Emotional abuse of female nursing home residents may include saying hurtful words, swearing, yelling, threatening, or ignoring the resident. Emotional abuse may also include denying an older person the right to see family and friends.
“One study of older women found that verbal abuse only leads to greater declines in mental health than physical abuse only.”
– National Center on Elder Abuse
Sexual abuse cases in nursing homes include sexual assault and forcing a resident to watch or participate in sexual acts.
Through interviews with experts, regulators, and family members, a CNN investigation discovered sexual abuse in nursing homes is more widespread than people may know.
What’s even more disturbing: Many times, nursing homes and government officials do very little to help victims of sexual abuse.
Financial abuse is when money or belongings are stolen from a nursing home resident.
This type of abuse may include:
- Accessing bank accounts
- Changing names on estate documents, life insurance policies, or titles to houses
- Forging checks
- Stealing someone’s Social Security benefits
- Taking someone’s retirement
- Using credit cards
Financial abuse can unfortunately be more difficult to detect and prove than other forms of abuse. This is because it is often done with the permission of the resident who was tricked or manipulated into providing consent.
Financial abuse in nursing homes is more common among women than men.
This may be due to three main reasons:
- Women live longer than men, causing there to be more available targets
- Predators may view women as generally weaker and more vulnerable, especially when health problems are present
- Some women do not have experience in financial affairs if it was historically their husband’s role
A Canadian national survey found that 62% of financial abuse victims in the elderly population were female.
Nursing home neglect occurs when a resident’s physical and emotional needs are not responded to. Neglect may also occur when food, medications, or health care are withheld.
Preventing Abuse of Women in Nursing Homes
The detection and prevention of nursing home abuse among women is gaining attention — and, in turn, becoming a priority. A number of studies have been conducted around the world that have identified practical ways to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect.
Prevention measures include:
- Educating communities on elder abuse to change societal views toward older adults
- Forming care teams of doctors, social workers, law enforcement, and attorneys to help protect women in nursing homes
- Improving reporting and data collection of nursing home abuse and women
- Providing social support to older adults as a way to build up resilience in how they respond to stressful situations
How Women Can Report Nursing Home Abuse
Women can report nursing home abuse by dialing 911 in the case of a medical emergency.
Ongoing nursing home abuse should be reported to the local Adult Protective Services (APS) branch. There are also several ways that law enforcement can help in instances of nursing home abuse among women.
Law enforcement may be contacted to assist with filing criminal charges for:
- Coercion by tricking patients for financial gain
- Psychological abuse, such as harassment
- Sexual abuse
Abuse of female nursing home residents can also be reported to the state ombudsman, who serves as an intermediary between long-term care facilities and individuals. Each state has an ombudsman that can be located through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
Obstacles To Reporting Abuse and Neglect
The sad reality is that incidents of nursing home abuse among women often go unreported, which can make prevention especially challenging.
Common obstacles that caregivers with loved ones in nursing homes face when they suspect abuse are:
- Fearing that their loved ones will face retaliation when they leave
- Not knowing the reporting process
- Not knowing what constitutes abuse or neglect
Nursing home abuse is grossly underreported. If obstacles are removed, reporting can be improved, creating a safer environment for women in nursing homes.
When it comes to the victims themselves, studies show that it is rare for women in nursing facilities to report abuse. This is usually due to fear and feelings of hopelessness.
Other reasons women may not report abuse include:
- Coming to accept that some level of abuse is normal
- Feeling embarrassed
- Not wanting to admit to financial abuse because it suggests they are unable to manage their own affairs
- Worrying that telling will turn them into a burden on family members
Obstacles to reporting abuse in nursing homes are systemic. When abuse is suspected, nursing homes can be slow to investigate and report it.
Next Steps for Elderly Women and Loved Ones
Nursing home abuse among women is sadly more common than many people are willing to believe. However, abuse and neglect of the elderly can be deadly and must be addressed.
Nursing homes and their employees who commit abuse cause unthinkable suffering to the frailest and most vulnerable of people. Due to underreporting, many abusers are allowed to continue hurting women without consequence.
Filing a lawsuit can help stop predators from harming others. If your loved one suffered from nursing home abuse and neglect, you may have legal options.
Get a free consultation to see if you may be eligible to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit.