What Is Nursing Home Abuse?
The Administration on Aging defines nursing home abuse as intentionally causing physical harm or mental anguish on a long-term care facility resident.
Sadly, nursing home abuse is alarmingly common. However, it often goes unreported. This is especially tragic since many nursing home residents cannot defend themselves and are left to suffer in silence.
“For decades, nursing homes have been plagued with reports suggesting widespread and serious maltreatment of residents, including abuse, neglect, and theft of personal property.” – National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Nursing home abuse can take many forms and range in severity. Nursing home neglect and abuse may be intentional or even unintentional.
The main types of nursing home abuse are:
- Physical abuse: Causing physical pain or injury to a nursing home resident
- Emotional abuse: Harassing, threatening, or intimidating a resident
- Neglect: Failing to provide the necessary care for a resident
- Sexual abuse: Engaging in any type of sexual activity with a nursing home resident
- Financial exploitation: Misusing or stealing a resident’s money, property, or other assets
- Abandonment: Leaving a resident on their own without planning for their care
- Self-neglect: Allowing a nursing home resident to not properly care for themselves
No matter the reason or what form it takes, nursing home abuse is never acceptable. Families trust nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide quality care for their loved ones. Facilities and nursing home staff must be held accountable when they do not protect their residents from harm.
Why Does Elder Abuse Happen in Nursing Homes?
While there isn’t a lot of research on the exact reasons why elder abuse occurs in nursing homes, there is general agreement that several factors are usually at play.
The leading causes for elder abuse in nursing homes are believed to be:
- Stressful working conditions, such as staff shortages
- Staff burnout, sometimes due to mandatory overtime
- Staff inability to compassionately respond to resident aggression
Additional factors that are believed to contribute to nursing home abuse are a lack of supervision, improper training, and inadequate wages.
Unfortunately, not all nursing homes are equipped to provide residents with the quality of care they deserve. When this happens, vulnerable adults are put at significant risk for mistreatment.
How Common Is Nursing Home Abuse?
Tragically, nursing home abuse is far more common than many people think. What’s worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the already-widespread problem of elder abuse in nursing homes.
Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 2 in 3 staff members admit to having committed nursing home abuse in the past year.
While data is limited due to a lack of studies on nursing home abuse, the WHO estimates the following figures to be realistic.
- Physical abuse: 14.1%
- Emotional abuse: 33.4%
- Neglect: 11.6%
- Sexual abuse: 1.9%
- Financial exploitation: 13.8%
Victims of elder abuse in nursing homes are more likely to be women and those who do not have family or friends checking on them regularly. Additionally, elder abuse victims may have memory problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
“Elder abuse is a silent problem that robs seniors of their dignity, security, and — in some cases — costs them their lives.” – The National Council on Aging (NCOA)
Sadly, the number of nursing home abuse cases is projected to increase across the globe. This is because many countries have rapidly aging populations. In fact, WHO predicts that the number of elder abuse victims will increase to 320 million by 2050.
Nursing Home Abuse Consequences
Nursing home abuse can lead to long-term emotional damage, serious physical injury, and even death. The heartbreaking problem will only get addressed if victims and their loved ones come forward and fight back.
If you believe a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, take action now. Not only can you help prevent it from happening to other families, but you may also be able to recover compensation.
Money recovered in a nursing home lawsuit can help get your loved one into a facility that can provide the quality of care they deserve.
What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
The signs of nursing home abuse vary by person and the type of abuse that’s occurred. Therefore, it is critically important to know what to look for to keep your loved one safe.
The following are common warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect:
- Broken glasses
- Complaints of poor treatment
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Difficulty sleeping
- Emotional changes, such as agitation, fear, or withdrawal
- Frequent crying
- Lacking necessary assistive devices, such as walkers, dentures, or hearing aids
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Poor hygiene
- Preventable conditions, such as late-stage bedsores or pressure ulcers
- Receiving the wrong medicine or not getting medical care
- Showing signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth
- Sudden weight loss
- Unexplained physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones
- Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
If you notice any signs of elder abuse or neglect, try talking with your loved one to find out the cause. In some cases, there could be reasonable explanations. However, patterns of neglect, serious injury, and even wrongful death are often red flags for abuse.
How Do I Report Nursing Home Abuse?
The most important thing to remember is that nursing home abuse will not stop on its own. It is highly likely that you will have to intervene.
Depending on the situation, you may need to report nursing home abuse to the local authorities, nursing home administrators, Adult Protective Services (APS), or your state’s long-term care ombudsman.
No matter how you decide to report it, taking action is the best defense in keeping your loved one safe and free from suffering.
If you think your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 right away.
Many forms of nursing home abuse are crimes. In these cases, police may be able to put an end to the abuse of elderly people. Contacting the local authorities can also serve to provide important documentation that may be needed at a later time. Furthermore, criminal charges may be filed if there is substantial evidence of abuse.
Nursing Home Administrators
It’s the job of nursing home administrators to seriously consider reports of abuse. When you report your suspicions to the nursing home administrators, they should help determine the extent of the abuse. They can also remove the suspected abuser while they investigate your claim to ensure your loved one and other residents are out of harm’s way.
Adult Protective Services (APS)
Adult Protective Services (APS) is a nonprofit organization with offices in all 50 states. APS helps victims of elder abuse and aims to help keep vulnerable adults free from mistreatment of any kind. The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) has a toll-free hotline you can call.
You may also wish to contact the Administration for Community Living’s Eldercare Locator to learn about other ways to report abuse.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
A long-term care (LTC) ombudsman advocates for the rights of nursing home residents. By federal law, each state has a long-term care ombudsman who will address nursing home concerns and help resolve any problems. Ombudsman offices have a toll-free hotline you can call for issues in any state.
Many elderly adults are ashamed to report mistreatment on their own. In other cases, the victim may be unable to report it due to a medical condition, such as dementia or a stroke that has left them nonverbal. It cannot be stressed enough – nursing home abuse will not stop on its own, and it can be deadly.
Even if physical wounds heal, elder abuse causes emotional suffering that can last for the rest of the victim’s life. No matter how you choose to report abuse, it’s critical to act quickly.
It may also be a good idea to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. An experienced nursing home abuse law firm is likely to have handled cases just like yours. They may be able to help you secure compensation, and more importantly, justice.
How Can I Prevent Nursing Home Abuse?
Preventing nursing home abuse can only happen if you know the warning signs of abuse.
“To prevent abuse, one must first recognize that abuse actually occurs… and to understand how severe the consequences can be for residents.” – National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Neglect or abuse in nursing homes can cause residents to become fearful. They may be afraid to report the mistreatment for fear of angering staff and making matters worse if retaliation occurs.
It’s essential to listen to your loved one, even if they have a condition such as dementia that impairs their judgment. Take any possibility or allegation of abuse seriously.
You can take the following steps to help prevent nursing home abuse:
- Know the different types of elder abuse and the red flags for each one
- Call or visit your loved one frequently
- Raise concerns of abuse or neglect to staff
- Be aware of possible staffing shortages
- Listen to your loved one’s complaints, even if they have cognitive impairment
- Watch for signs of psychological abuse
- Report abuse without delay
- Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer
According to The National Council on Aging (NCOA), elders who reported abuse were three times as likely to die after one year as those who were not abused. This is one of the many reasons that their loved ones should take all possible measures to prevent or stop abuse.
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Abuse?
Victims of abuse or their family members may be able to file a legal claim against a nursing home. There are many situations that may warrant a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
Nursing homes may be sued if the facility fails to:
- Follow health and safety policies
- Hire qualified employees
- Keep the nursing home safe
- Properly supervise residents
- Provide required medical treatment
- Staff adequately
- Train staff members
Additionally, nursing homes hire outside contractors who also may be held responsible for abuse or neglect.
Most nursing home cases are settled outside of court, allowing plaintiffs to secure compensation without going to trial.
Who Is the Best Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?
The best nursing home abuse lawyers are attorneys who have proven success in handling nursing home abuse claims.
Nursing homes often have powerful insurance companies on their side. They may also fail to document abuse or even hide the evidence.
Because it can be hard to prove who is at fault in nursing home cases, it’s crucial to hire a personal injury lawyer with experience in handling these types of cases.
We can connect you to lawyers with:
- Access to extensive resources
- Decades of experience filing nursing home lawsuits
- A history of securing results for clients
- Nationwide availability
- No upfront legal fees
Choosing a nursing home abuse law firm is an important decision. We can help you find the best law firm to handle your claim.