What Are the Top 5 Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Updated on February 23, 2021

Abuse is considered to be any type of harm, actions, behaviors, and treatments that range from neglect to violence. Nursing home abuse means that harm has come to elderly residents. The abuse may be due to mistreatment by nursing home staff, other residents, or family members, and the severity of the abuse may also vary depending on the specific type and cause of the abuse.  Although the rights of nursing home residents are legally protected, nursing home residents continue to be neglected, physically and/or emotionally abused, and taken advantage of financially. It is essential that family, friends, and staff members be aware of the potential types of abuse, the symptoms of abuse, and the appropriate actions to take if abuse is suspected. Here are five of the main types of nursing home abuse.

Abandonment and Neglect

Abandonment and neglect are the act of failing to provide nursing home residents the proper care, whether it is intentional or unintentional.  Neglect is different from abuse, which is the deliberate act of causing harm in some way, while neglect and abandonment are due to carelessness, oversight, and/or indifference. Some common types of neglect may include:

  • Not providing life necessities, such as food and water
  • Leaving elderly residents unattended for long periods of time
  • Failing to keep residents’ room clean
  • Failing or refusing to provide residents bathing needs and personal hygiene needs
  • Not properly cleaning the person after times of incontinence/ bowel movements
  • Denying, forgetting to provide, improperly administering, or withholding medications
  • Denying them socialization/forcing isolation
  • Abandoning in a public place/leaving them to fend for themselves
  • Failing to report illness or injuries to physicians, family members, and/or medical staff in a timely manner
  • Disregard the safety and security of the residents
  • Ignoring or dismissing complaints, whether they are against other residents or members of staff

Physical Abuse

When physical abuse occurs it means the person has sustained intentional bodily injuries or trauma. Although physical abuse may be done to any type of resident, those who suffer from cognitive disorders are often more susceptible to the abuse. Physical abuse can cause long-term, severe, or even life-threatening injuries and when proper medical attention is denied there is an even greater risk of possible death. Common signs of physical abuse may include unexplained bruising, broken or fractured bones, scratches, and a sudden, unexplainable change in behavior in the resident. Physical abuse may be committed in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Punching, striking, slapping, or hitting
  • Kicking or biting
  • Grabbing, pushing, or shoving
  • Causing injury with an object
  • Confining or restraining with ties or other types of restraint

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is done with the intent of causing fear, distress, and/or mental trauma. It can be devastating and lead to long-term psychological damages to the person’s confidence and their ability to enjoy quality of life. Emotional abuse can be carried out by caregivers, medical staff, family, and friends, and/or other residents. There are a variety of ways in which emotional abuse may occur, including:

  • Insulting their intelligence or appearance
  • Calling the resident names
  • Threatening to have the resident removed
  • Isolating the resident from their family, friends, or other residents
  • Exerting unnecessary control, such as limiting the use of transportation, telephone, and/or other things the resident may want/need to use

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse means that the staff or other residents have demonstrated an intentional act of violating the resident in unwanted sexual acts. This may include intercourse, oral intercourse, groping, or unwanted touching. Sexual abuse can have a variety of symptoms, such as scratches, bruises on or around genitals as well as other areas of the body. Sexual abuse cause both physical and emotional damages. This type of abuse can happen to incapacitate as well as cognizant, functioning residents. Although most people associated sexual abuse with being done by staff, it can also be committed by other residents. 

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse, which is an intentional manipulation and exploitation of the person in order to get financial control over them and it, is one of the most common, often overlooked forms of elder abuse both inside and outside of nursing homes. Financial abuse can be extremely stressful and cause despair for nursing home residents because they often lose their savings and income that is essential for paying for their care and other responsibilities. Financial abuse is often carried out by gaining the trust of the resident. Financial abuse can include:

  • Stealing the person’s personal documents
  • Stealing their money and/or possessions
  • Prohibiting the resident access to their own funds
  • Forging documents, including the misuse of the power of attorney
  • Convincing the resident to give up control of their money

Nursing home abuse, regardless of the type, is difficult, stressful, and painful for the resident as well as their loved ones. In order to help prevent abuse from happening to you or your elderly loved one, it is essential that you fully research all nursing homes you are considering as residential placement. Be sure to address any questions and concerns you may have prior to placement. If you have any concerns about the safety and security of the nursing home, use your best instincts and consider other options if necessary. If your loved one is in a nursing home, it is extremely important that you listen to any complaints they may have. Always be aware of signs of potential abuse and if you suspect abuse is occurring, report your suspicions immediately. 

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