What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Updated on March 24, 2022

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Nursing home abuse occurs when caretakers harm residents of long-term care facilities. Both intentional and unintentional harm is considered abuse because they can result in physical or mental trauma, medical emergencies, and even death. 

Nursing home abuse is a problem due to improper training, understaffing, and staff burnout. These factors affect staff members because they could take out their anger on the people they care for or prevent them from responding to urgent situations like stroke and falls. 

As many as 1 in 3 older people have been victims of nursing home abuse. Furthermore, 2 in 3 staff members surveyed by WHO (World Health Organization) claimed they had abused or neglected residents.  

Who Commits Nursing Home Abuse?

Abuse in nursing homes is typically conducted by the following people:

  • Nursing Home Administrators
  • Nursing Home Staff
  • Other Nursing Home Residents

Steps To Take Against Nursing Home Abuse

Taking immediate action is the best way to protect your loved ones against harm. As nursing home residents are already frail and vulnerable, any delays can cause injuries to worsen and even become deadly.

If you think that nursing home abuse has occurred, please do the following: 

  1. Call 911 
  2. Document Signs and Symptoms 
  3. Gather Evidence
  4. Contact the Nursing Home Ombudsman

Call 911 in An Emergency 

If your loved one is in life-threatening or immediate danger, there is no time to waste — call 911 without delay. Calling the authorities is the fastest way to take action if nursing home abuse or neglect is suspected.

Calling 911 allows your loved one to receive medical attention. The police can start an investigation into the incident, through which they may hold the nursing home and its staff criminally accountable.

If a nursing home resident is not in immediate danger, it may be more appropriate to report the suspected abuse through other means. 

Note Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

In cases where you are not certain that your loved one might be suffering from abuse, noting possible signs of abuse is key. 

There are several types of nursing home abuse, each with a unique set of warning signs.

The top seven types of nursing home abuse are:

  1. Abandonment
  2. Emotional Abuse
  3. Financial Exploitation
  4. Neglect of A Residents Basic Needs
  5. Physical Abuse 
  6. Self-Neglect
  7. Sexual Assault 

Elder Abandonment

Elder abandonment occurs when a caregiver leaves an older person who needs help alone to fend for themselves. Assisted living facilities can also abandon nursing home residents.

In 2020, the New York Times reported on a facility in California that kicked out a resident with dementia and dropped him off at a halfway house. The facility didn’t inform the victim’s family members, and he was found wandering the streets alone.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse (also known as verbal or psychological abuse) occurs when someone insults a resident or uses threats to control them. It is the most common type of nursing home abuse.

According to the WHO, over 32% of nursing home staff members said they emotionally abused residents.

Examples of emotional abuse include:

  • Controlling a resident’s activities against their will
  • Insulting the resident’s appearance or intelligence
  • Isolating seniors from family, friends, and other residents
  • Making threats

Residents that suffer from emotional elder abuse can develop long-term mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Signs that a loved one has been emotionally abused include negative changes in their mood or behavior. 

Financial Abuse

Financial elder abuse occurs when someone steals from an older person or uses manipulative techniques to get money from them.

Examples of financial abuse include:

  • Misusing power of attorney to change a resident’s will
  • Preventing the resident from accessing their bank account
  • Stealing a resident’s cash, credit cards, or valuables
  • Stealing a resident’s financial records or bank statements

Financial abuse can be very stressful for residents, as they can lose the income and savings needed to pay for their long-term care.

Sexual Abuse 

This type of abuse occurs when a resident experiences any form of unwanted sexual contact, touching, or groping. Sexual elder abuse can lead to physical harm like bruises, scratches, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional trauma.

Sexual elder abuse is often committed against residents who are disabled or unable to give consent.

In a recent case, a female nursing home resident complained that a male staff member tried to sexually assault her before she screamed, and he fled.

The resident also suffered neglect due to untreated bed sores and pneumonia. With legal help, the resident and her family secured $175,000 in compensation.



Neglect is different from nursing home abuse. Abuse is a deliberate act performed to harm someone, while nursing home neglect stems from carelessness or apathy on the nursing home staff.

Examples of nursing home neglect include:

Medication Errors

Nursing home residents may rely on staff to receive medications, but staff members could make mistakes when giving medication to residents. This can cause serious or even life-threatening complications.

Personal Hygiene

Nursing home staff members need to maintain each resident’s hygiene by changing their clothes and helping to wash them. If they fail to do so, a nursing home resident may wear dirty or soiled clothes for hours or days and develop health problems.

Dehydration and Malnutrition

Nursing home staff members may not give enough food or water to residents, and they could suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, or severe weight loss.

If an elder shows any signs of neglect while living in a nursing home, staff members may be responsible.

Physical Abuse 

Physical nursing home abuse occurs when a resident suffers bodily harm or injuries. Over 9% of nursing home staff members admitted to physically abusing residents in a 2020 study from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Examples of physical abuse include:

  • Being punched or kicked
  • Being restrained with straps or ties
  • Getting pushed or shoved

Common signs of physical abuse among residents include broken bones, bruises, and bleeding. Physical abuse may be perpetrated against any resident, but those with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease may be at higher risk.

Physical elder abuse can lead to serious injuries or death without proper medical attention. Thankfully, financial compensation may be available to pay for medical bills and emotional suffering if you or a loved one suffered physical nursing home abuse.

A Winter Haven personal injury attorney will gladly represent your loved one who has suffered from elderly abuse. They aggressively defend the rights and dignity of your loved one to get justice and compensation for you and your family.


The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.