Nursing Home Abuse: Ensuring Quality Care for our Seniors
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Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse

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Caring for our elders is a BIG business in the United States. As of 2022, there were 26,514 nursing homes in the U.S., housing approximately 1.25 million residents. Another 810,000 elders currently live in assisted living facilities. The industry is experiencing significant growth, and by 2050, it’s estimated that these numbers will TRIPLE, making the need for nursing homes and other care facilities more significant than ever.

In 2022, nursing homes were a $146.9 billion dollar industry, a $12B increase over 2021. It’s experienced a 1.9% growth rate from 2017 – 2022, and experts predict it will grow at an even faster rate of 4.5% as we move into 2023.

While the number of nursing homes and elders requiring care continues to grow, the same cannot be said for the overall quality of care nursing home residents receive. Nursing homes have been plagued by abuse for many years. The reasons for this are numerous, ranging from the lack of resources to the types of residents and their unique needs. According to experts, these are some of the top reasons why nursing home abuse occurs:

  • Staffing shortages

  • Lack of staff training and experience

  • Underpaid staff

  • Burnout and stress

  • Poor supervision, management, and accountability

  • Individual caregiver issues

  • Individual resident risk factors


According to The Administration of Aging, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, nursing home abuse is defined as:

“Any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable result.”


Nursing home abuse affects thousands of families each year. In 2020, over 15,000 complaints filed with nursing home ombudsmen were about abuse and neglect. A report compiled by the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) broke down the abuse complaints as follows:

  • 29% – Physical abuse

  • 22% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)

  • 21% – Psychological abuse

  • 14% – Gross neglect

  • 7% – Sexual abuse

  • 7% – Financial exploitation


Organizations that protect the rights of the elders to have a number of classifications when it comes to nursing home abuse. The five listed blow are among the most common:


Physical abuse includes ANYTHING that deprives residents of their primary needs for survival and dignity, including:

  • Food

  • Warmth

  • Shelter

  • Sanitary conditions

Physical abuse can consist of:

  • Active abuse (hitting, punching, kicking)

  • Physical neglect

  • Misuse of physical restraints

Physical abuse is often committed as a form of retaliation by staff against physically aggressive patients who act out, often due to dementia and other conditions resulting in mental decline.


Generally, emotional abuse refers to any non-physical, verbal abuse, including:

  • Insults

  • Harassment

  • Yelling

  • Threats

Emotional abuse can also include deriving a patient of their dignity, by leaving them in soiled clothes, or refusing to allow them to make choices over daily decisions. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study from 2020, this is the most COMMON type of elder abuse. And regrettably, almost 1/3 of all nursing home employees have admitted to emotionally abusing a patient.


Neglect refers to a caretaker’s failure to provide:

  • Food

  • Shelter

  • Medical care

  • Protection

This in turn can lead to numerous problems for the patient, including:

  • Bedsores

  • Infections

  • Sepsis

  • MRSA

  • Malnutrition

  • Dehydration

  • Choking

  • Clogged breathing tubes

Neglect is different from abuse in that it usually refers to an UNINTENTIONAL act.


Sexual abuse refers to any nonconsensual sexual contact.


Financial exploitation refers to the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds or property.


  • Bruising, broken bones, burns, injuries around the genitals

  • Unexplained STDs

  • Changes to financial accounts

  • Changes to wills and other financial documents

  • Fraudulent signatures on documents

  • Unpaid bills

  • Withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy

  • Unusual changes in sleep/behavior

  • Unreasonable fear/anxiety

  • Onset of depression

  • Untreated bedsores/poor hygiene

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Lack of medical aids (cane, walker, wheelchair)



    • Avoid losing your temper
    • Remain calm and seek a resolution rationally.
  • QUESTION the Nursing Home Staff/Management

    • If they are unwilling or unable to explain things, look into taking more formal action.
  • SPEAK with your loved one

    • Privately!
    • Report the suspected abuse
    • Seek he advice of an attorney.
  • Be NOSY. Take NOTES.

    • Also take photos and video
    • Document who you spoke with.
  • CALL POLICE if there is clear abuse and/or immediate DANGER

  • Consult a LAWYER

As noted above, much nursing home abuse is closely connected to the hiring practices of the individual facilities. Many are notoriously understaffed, and as a result, are forced to hire unqualified, inexperienced people. When a nursing home is constantly short-staffed, it is often a recipe for disaster, as residents do not receive the care they require and are paying for. It’s irresponsible, but an all-too-common practice in the industry. Have a loved one who has been the victim of nursing home abuse? Visit the GOLDLAW website, or call us at 561-222-2222 and schedule a COMPLIMENTARY consultation with one of our highly qualified attorneys who specializes in elder care law.