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Nursing Home Abuse

Understanding Nursing Home Abuse

Quick Answer

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 World Health Organization (WHO) study. Residents and family members can reduce the risks of nursing home abuse by knowing the signs and quickly reporting them.

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What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

An older woman sits and stares out a window with a look of concern.

Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities. Both intentional and unintentional harm may be considered elder abuse in nursing homes. This abuse can result in trauma, medical emergencies, and even death.

Sadly, nursing home abuse is prevalent due to understaffing, improper training, and staff burnout. These factors can cause staff members to take out their anger on the people they should care for. It may also prevent them from responding to urgent situations like falls or strokes.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take if your loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse. First, you can help keep them safe by reporting the abuse to proper authorities, like the local police or your state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) division.

You can also seek financial compensation to pay for your loved one’s medical care and other expenses with help from a nursing home abuse lawyer.

Report any signs of nursing home abuse to the proper authorities, and call 911 if they are in immediate danger.

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Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

While nursing home abuse statistics can be disturbing, it is essential to learn how common the problem is. This is especially true if you have a loved one living in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or another long-term care facility.

Here are some key nursing home abuse statistics you should know:

  • As many as 1 in 3 older adults have been the victim of nursing home abuse
  • 2 in 3 staff members surveyed by the WHO admitted to abusing or neglecting residents
  • Roughly 85% of assisted living facilities reported at least one case of abuse or neglect
  • According to National Public Radio, 97% of nursing home abuse cases across 5 states were not reported to local law enforcement
  • Elder abuse rates have increased during COVID-19
  • Abuse of elderly adults can cause severe injuries and long-term mental health issues

Tragically, the WHO expects elder abuse cases to increase in the future since the global population is rapidly aging. You can help keep your loved one safe by educating yourself about abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

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

Physical nursing home abuse can cause bruises, cuts, or broken bones and may be hidden or unreported by staff.

Example: A Colorado woman with Alzheimer's suffered multiple injuries. The staff hid the fact that her caregiver, a convicted felon, had inflicted the injuries.

Learn More About Physical Abuse

Nursing home neglect, even if unintentional, harms residents and is unacceptable.

Example: In Iowa, a resident fell after moving around her room unattended. Nurses neglected to send her to the hospital for 16 hours, leading to the resident passing away.

Learn More About Neglect

Residents can face sexual nursing home abuse from staff or other residents, causing extreme trauma for victims and their families.

Example: An Illinois nursing home chaplain was arrested and sentenced to 14 years for sexually abusing multiple residents, with an additional 12 years for other crimes.

Learn More About Sexual Abuse

Emotional nursing home abuse, though non-physical, can stress and frighten residents, leading to severe mental health issues.

Example: Two Chicago nursing home staff members were arrested for tormenting a 91-year-old dementia patient, leading to a lawsuit against the nursing home.

Learn More About Emotional Abuse

Nursing home residents have their hard-earned money stolen by dishonest staff or caregivers through financial nursing home abuse.

Example: A 25-year-old woman was arrested for stealing nearly $20,000 from multiple residents. Police found checks and a stolen debit card.

Learn More About Financial Abuse

Nursing Home Abuse Warning Signs

Recognizing the signs of nursing home abuse is critical to protect victims and prevent more harm from being done. Signs of nursing home abuse can range from subtle neglect to blatant physical abuse.

Nursing home abuse and neglect warning signs include:

  • Bedsores, especially stage 4 bedsores
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Bruises, burns, and welts on the skin
  • Cuts, lacerations, and skin tears
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Facial and dental injuries
  • Falls that cause fractures or head injury
  • Infections that turn into sepsis
  • Unexplainable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Unexplained weight loss

In severe cases, nursing home abuse or neglect can even lead to wrongful death.

If you notice any nursing home abuse warning signs, you should seek legal help right away. Compensation may be available.

Nursing Home Abuse Causes

There are many reasons why elder abuse occurs in nursing homes and care facilities. Typically, it occurs when caregivers are unfit to help older people.

When nursing home employees are not adequately trained, they can become easily frustrated and stressed. While many employees have healthy coping methods, some take out their stress by harming the residents.

Chronic staff shortages can also make abuse more likely. Nursing home residents cannot get the necessary care and attention without adequate staffing. Over time, chronic neglect can cause many long-term physical and emotional issues.

Did You Know

In 2017, a bedridden nursing home resident with dementia died while a nurse changed her bedsheets after she fell. The fall caused her to fracture both her knees, but the staff didn’t get a doctor until nine days later. By the time she entered the hospital, she could not recover.

The bottom line is that no matter the causes of nursing home abuse, it is always dangerous and unacceptable.

Risk Factors for Abuse in Nursing Homes

While any nursing home resident could suffer from abuse or neglect, some factors may put certain elders at a greater risk of abuse.

Potential risk factors for elder abuse include:

  • Being female: In a study published by Justice Quarterly, women accounted for 67% of elder sexual abuse cases.
  • Being a veteran: Veterans may require more medical care than civilians and suffer from illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), putting them at a greater risk of abuse.
  • Having a mental illness: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) notes that almost 50% of elders with mental impairments suffer from abuse.
  • Identifying as LGBTQ+: The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) found that 8% of LGBTQ+ elders were physically abused by a caregiver.

If an older person is at increased risk of elder abuse, keep a close watch on them and note any negative changes in their appearance or behavior.

Negligent Nursing Home Staff

The actions — or lack thereof — of nursing home staff members may also cause abuse or neglect. While understaffing in nursing homes is a chronic problem, it should never result in harm to residents.

Staff actions that may indicate nursing home abuse include:

  • Failing to respond to residents’ requests for assistance
  • Improperly administering medications
  • Not responding to concerns about conflicts between residents
  • Poor planning when it comes to moving residents between floors or rooms
  • Showing disrespect or poor attitudes toward 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

Elderly man who uses a cane holding hands with a loved one

It is crucial to speak up if you or your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Bringing your concerns to the proper authorities may allow healing to begin and justice to be served.

Additionally, nursing home facilities that are held accountable are more likely to take action, helping keep future residents safe.

The first thing to remember is to always call 911 in 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 APS.

These agencies check on the welfare of nursing home residents to see if they are being abused.

Have you noticed signs of nursing home abuse? Contact us today by calling (855) 264-6310.

Nursing Home Abuse Laws

Federal and state nursing home abuse laws are in place to ensure nursing facilities provide high-quality care to residents.

These laws grant nursing home residents:

  • The ability to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit if they are mistreated
  • The right to a safe living space free of abuse
  • The right to participate in decisions regarding their care

Families and nursing home residents need to know their rights early on. This can help prevent abuse or address it before it causes serious injuries or long-term harm.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

Many instances of nursing home abuse go undetected. Thankfully, it may be possible to prevent abuse from happening or continuing.

You can prevent nursing home abuse by:

  • Recognizing the signs and causes
  • Regularly checking in on your loved one
  • Taking preventative measures (like changing nursing homes) if needed

With the help of an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer, you may be able to hold abusive staff members financially accountable.

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 with a free case review.

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Get a free legal case review if you or a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect.

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Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

A nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help you and your loved one get compensation while holding abusive staff members responsible.

In some nursing home abuse cases, victims who worked with nursing home abuse lawyers have received millions of dollars.

Did You Know

The family of a woman with dementia who died weeks after staying in a nursing home received over $2 million. The jury in the case determined the nursing home was responsible for her death.

Money awarded in a nursing home abuse lawsuit can help pay for:

  • Funeral costs
  • Hospital stays
  • Other expenses that stem from the abuse

Nursing home abuse law firms may also secure punitive damages, which is extra money awarded to punish the abusers for the harm they caused.

Our trusted lawyers can help you and your loved ones take legal action. Call us today at (855) 264-6310.

While you may think filing a lawsuit is time-consuming and complex, you don’t need to worry. Skilled nursing home abuse lawyers make the process as easy and stress-free as possible.

Nursing home abuse attorneys can:

  • Gather evidence to build a legal claim
  • File the claim within state deadlines
  • Work to retrieve the highest amount of compensation possible

Experienced nursing home lawyers have seen the effects of abuse firsthand. If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of nursing home abuse, these attorneys can work on your behalf to hold nursing home staff members responsible.

Get a free case review today.

Nursing Home Abuse FAQs

What is the most common abuse in nursing homes?

The most common type of nursing home abuse is psychological or emotional abuse. This includes behaviors that harm a person’s self-worth or emotional well-being.

Physical nursing home abuse, like hitting or kicking, is also common. Different studies show varying levels of abuse, but these two types are frequently reported in nursing homes.

What is an example of abuse in a care home?

Examples of abuse in a care home include:

  • Hitting or pushing residents
  • Ignoring a resident’s needs or requests
  • Stealing money or belongings from residents
  • Touching residents inappropriately
  • Yelling at or insulting residents

What are the 7 types of elder abuse?

Seven types of elder abuse are:

  1. Physical Abuse: Harming through physical force
  2. Psychological Abuse: Causing emotional pain
  3. Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact
  4. Financial Exploitation: Misusing or stealing money
  5. Neglect: Ignoring basic needs, like food, water, and proper hygiene
  6. Self-Neglect: Older adults failing to care for themselves
  7. Abandonment: Deserting an older person who depends on others for care

Call (855) 264-6310 now if you believe a loved one has been abused or neglected while living in a nursing home.

We may be able to connect you with a top nursing home law firm to help you get justice and financial compensation.

What factors put people at risk of abuse in nursing homes?

While any resident can suffer from nursing home abuse, some are at a higher risk than others. For example, female residents and those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are more likely to be abused.

Additionally, residents who do not have loved ones regularly checking in on them may also be at a greater risk of nursing home abuse. Family and friends are often the first line of defense in recognizing the signs of abuse early on.

How many cases of nursing home abuse are reported?

Many nursing home abuse cases go unreported, making it hard to know the true extent of abuse.

For instance, a study showed that 1 in 5 emergency room Medicare claims from assisted living residents might be due to nursing home abuse or neglect. Yet, about 6,000 cases in the study weren’t properly reported to law enforcement.

Fear or health issues like dementia can make it hard for residents to report nursing home abuse, so it’s important for families to keep a close watch.

Do for-profit nursing homes have higher rates of abuse?

Recent research has associated for-profit facilities with higher rates of nursing home abuse.

Residents in private equity-acquired nursing homes were 11.1% more likely to have preventable emergency room visits and 8.7% more likely to face avoidable hospitalizations, according to a 2022 White House study.

A separate study reported residents in for-profit nursing homes faced nearly double the risk of health issues from poor care compared to those in not-for-profit homes. These for-profit homes also had higher rates of neglect and were generally of lower quality.

The New York Times found that about 75% of for-profit nursing homes in the U.S. pay companies they own for some care aspects and services. This setup allows corporate leaders to funnel nursing home funds back into their pockets, essentially paying themselves.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team
Julie Rivers HeadshotReviewed by:Julie Rivers, MBA

Eldercare Advocate & Expert

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

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.

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

  1. Associated Press. (2019, August 13). Paducah Nursing Home to pay $2.2m in negligence lawsuit. WKMS. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Fast Facts: Preventing Elder Abuse. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from
  3. Jaffe, I. (2019, June 12). Health workers still aren’t alerting police about likely elder abuse, reports find. NPR. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from
  4. Kelman, B. (2018, August 1). New patients barred at Knoxville nursing home after woman with broken knees left in agony for 9 Days. Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from
  5. Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. ACL Administration for Community Living. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2022, from
  6. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Abuse of older people. World Health Organization. Retrieved August 31, 2022, from