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Nursing Home Abuse

Understanding Nursing Home Abuse

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Every year, nursing home abuse brings physical, emotional, or financial harm to older Americans. The perpetrators are usually negligent staff members or other residents. To protect loved ones in nursing homes, family members should check in regularly and report warning signs of abuse. Residents and their families may also qualify for compensation if abuse occurs.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is any type of harm — including physical or emotional injuries, sexual assault, or financial exploitation — that comes to elderly residents in long-term care facilities.

Families put their trust in nursing homes to watch over their loved ones — yet nursing homes don’t always provide the safe environments that are expected. Reports of elders suffering various forms of nursing home abuse have made national headlines in recent years.

Many of these issues stem from the nursing home staff — the very people hired to provide care — or other residents. Other issues are the result of big senior care corporations, which may sacrifice proper staff training and other quality measures to make a profit at the residents’ expense.

If you believe your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect, you have options. You can report any signs of abuse to authorities and take legal action to help keep your loved one safe.

Statistics on Abuse in Nursing Homes

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 6 adults aged 60 or older suffered some type of abuse in a community setting between 2017 and 2018.
  • Nearly 1 out of 3 nursing homes in the U.S. has been issued citations for abuse.
  • Nursing home abuse (along with elder abuse in general) often goes unreported, according to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
  • As of 2015, 1.3 million people lived in nursing homes throughout the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC believes that 27 million people will need care from nursing homes, in-home aides, or another long-term care program by 2050.
  • As 1 in 5 people in the U.S. is expected to be 65 or older by 2030, these problems may increase and do not seem to be going away any time soon.

Nursing Home Abuse Causes

A wide range of factors can be considered causes of nursing home abuse. Many of them stem from problems with nursing home employees or the corporations running the facilities.

Common causes of nursing home abuse include: 

  • Burnout
    Staff members may have to work long hours, and dealing with residents’ needs can be physically and emotionally taxing. Instead of letting out their frustrations in a healthy way, staff members may verbally or physically lash out at residents.
  • Greed
    Staff members may try to steal life savings or other financial assets of wealthy nursing home residents by getting close to them, forging checks, or taking their credit cards.
  • Lack of Supervision
    A lack of supervision can cause staff members to be inattentive, meaning a resident could face significant neglect for hours or even days at a time.
  • Understaffing
    If a nursing home has staffing shortages, it can place great stress on current employees. According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), a lower ratio of nurses to residents can have a huge impact on the overall health care a nursing facility provides.
  • Corporate Decisions
    Corporations that run multiple nursing homes often try to maximize profits, potentially leading to a number of problems. For example, a nursing home may hire staff members with no experience at a cheaper rate and fail to properly train or monitor them, making nursing home abuse more likely.

No matter the cause of nursing home abuse, there is never an excuse for it. All nursing home residents deserve a safe living environment — but sadly, too many older adults actually suffer harm.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse can generally be broken down into a few different types, which may overlap in some cases. For example, a loved one could suffer from both emotional and physical harm at the hands of a staff member or another resident.

It is important for you to know which type or types of nursing home abuse your loved one is suffering from and report it. By reporting nursing home abuse, you can prevent your loved one from further abuse and protect other nursing home residents from harm.

Physical abuse may include injuries like bruising, cuts, and broken bones. Sometimes, staff members lie about physical abuse or not report it at all.

Example - In 2018, a Colorado woman with Alzheimer's suffered broken bones and cuts to her head, arm, elbow, and nose. Staff members told her family that she scratched her face with a coat hanger. Police later found that her caregiver, a convicted felon, had inflicted the injuries.

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While emotional abuse may not physically harm the resident, it can increase their stress levels and make them miserable, scared, and anxious. Emotional nursing home abuse includes yelling at the resident, isolating them from family and friends, or manipulating their decisions.

Example - In August 2019, two nursing home staff members in Chicago were arrested after emotionally tormenting a 91-year-old dementia patient. The nursing home later faced a lawsuit as a result of this psychological abuse.

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Nursing home residents may have worked tirelessly to save money throughout their life, only to have it unknowingly stolen from their bank accounts by dishonest nursing home employees. These incidents are considered financial abuse.

Example - In 2019, a 25-year-old woman was arrested after stealing nearly $20,000 from several nursing home residents. Police found checks written out to her from the residents. One resident’s debit card was stolen and used as well.

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Residents may be sexually abused by staff members or other residents, leaving them and their family members traumatized.

Example - Multiple residents claimed an Illinois nursing home chaplain sexually abused them, according to police reports. The chaplain was arrested in September 2019 and sentenced to 14 years in jail, with another 12 years added for additional crimes.

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Nursing home neglect is when a lack of care harms a resident. While it is not always intentional, it is still unacceptable.

Example - A paralyzed woman with dementia was left sitting in her own urine at a North Carolina nursing home facility every day for a week. The woman’s daughter filed a complaint with the state, marking a total of 21 complaints against the nursing home since 2011.

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Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

If your loved one is being abused, you may not notice it at first. Nursing home abuse takes on many forms, with some signs less obvious than others.

Common signs of nursing home abuse include:

Physical Injuries

  • Repeated falls
  • Sores or strange marks around the genitals
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, or broken bones

Emotional Changes

  • Being scared of particular residents or staff members
  • Complaining about treatment from staff members
  • Increased signs of anxiety and/or depression

Other Signs

  • Frequent illnesses or infections
  • Loss of finances
  • Malnourishment and/or dehydration
  • Poor hygiene
  • Untreated bedsores or other wounds

Since the warning signs of nursing home abuse can vary greatly, it is important to have a keen eye when visiting your loved one. Some residents may not speak out about their abuse if they are too scared to do so or if they’re unable to communicate due to a health problem like dementia.

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

Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

Those who have suffered from abuse may want to consult a nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss their legal options.

Though police action may put abusers behind bars, victims may still be left with high medical bills or strained finances. Nursing home abuse attorneys can be very helpful in these situations.

Nursing home abuse attorneys have seen the horrors of abuse first-hand through previous clients and want to help victims recover from the harm done.

A nursing home abuse attorney can:

  • Gather evidence
  • File a lawsuit against nursing home staff members, administrators, and corporations
  • Help victims receive financial compensation for medical bills and other expenses

Families may receive a cash payout to cover lost savings, medical bills, and other expenses through nursing home abuse lawsuits. Nursing home abuse lawyers work on their client’s behalf to help them receive the highest amount of compensation possible in the shortest amount of time.

Were You or a Loved One Abused or Neglected?
Take Our Nursing Home Abuse Quiz

While many elders face health problems as they age, they should never have to suffer from abuse or neglect. Take this quiz to help you identify possible signs of nursing home abuse and learn about next steps.

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Who may have suffered nursing home abuse or neglect?

Nursing Home Abuse Laws

Across the nation, nursing home abuse laws have been established by state, local, and federal governments to prevent residents from getting hurt and to bring abusers to justice.

  • State nursing home abuse laws provide residents with varying degrees of protection. Some states have established elder or nursing home abuse task forces to keep residents safe. Other state laws allow hidden cameras in facilities to catch abusers in the act.
  • Federal nursing home abuse laws mandate that assisted living facilities must report and investigate allegations of abuse or neglect that are reported to the state.

Federal and state laws continue to evolve today — and with the help of law enforcement and attorneys, victims of nursing home abuse can seek justice.

How To Report Nursing Home Abuse & Take Action

Nursing home abuse is a heinous and inexcusable act. It should be addressed and reported immediately to prevent more harm from being done.

To report nursing home abuse, talk to local authorities such as the police or a long-term care ombudsman. If your loved one still lives in the nursing home where they were abused, you may want to consider moving them somewhere else to protect their safety.

If you believe your loved one has been abused in a nursing home, our team can help you determine your next steps. To learn more, get a free case review today.

FAQs on Nursing Home Abuse

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 dementia or Alzheimer’s disease 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 abuse — family and friends are often the first line of defense in recognizing the signs of abuse early on.

How common is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse has affected thousands of people. However, the WHO notes that more research is needed to determine just how frequently nursing home abuse occurs.

How many cases of nursing home abuse are reported?

Major studies have indicated that many nursing home abuse cases are properly reported. However, gaps in reporting remain, and thousands of residents could be affected.

A 2016 study found that 1 out of 5 ER (emergency room) Medicare claims filed by assisted living residents possibly stemmed from nursing home abuse or neglect. However, around 6,000 of the total cases studied were not properly reported to law enforcement.

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

According to the CDC, roughly 70% of all nursing homes are for-profit. These nursing homes are typically run by companies that own multiple senior care facilities. Recent studies have linked for-profit facilities with more instances of nursing home abuse.

A 2018 study found that seniors in for-profit nursing homes had nearly double the risk of health issues related to poor care than those in not-for-profit homes. They also showed more signs of neglect, and the facilities themselves were of poorer quality.

Additionally, a 2018 report from the New York Times found that some nursing home companies outsource aspects of their care to other companies they own. This allows corporate leaders to use nursing home funds to essentially pay themselves.

Nearly 75% of nursing homes in the United States outsource some aspects of their care to a related company, according to the Times.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

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.

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