Elder Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 20674341Many people are unaware of the abuse and neglect elderly adults in nursing home are subjected to every day in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 500,000 adults over the age of 60 are abused or neglected each year.

Unfortunately, these numbers may underestimate the severity of the problem, since many of the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect are unable to report their treatment.

According the the CDC, there are six types of abuse that are frequent among adults age 60 and older, including:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • neglect
  • financial abuse
  • abandonment

The Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging defines elder abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish or deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.”

Abuse can come in many forms, such as:

  • Physical abuse, which is inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior. Slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means all constitute physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse, meaning any form of non-consensual sexual contact.
  • Neglect is a form of abuse which isthe failure of those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elderly adult.
  • Exploitation is the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional abuse is a form of abuse where mental pain, anguish, or distress is inflicted on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts. Humiliating, intimidating, or threatening an elder adult constitutes emotional abuse.
  • Abandonment is the desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility of care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect is the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens their own health or safety.

When an elderly adult is subjected to abuse or neglect while in a nursing home, the nursing home facility can be held responsible if the maltreatment occurred because of negligent hiring, understaffing, inadequate training, medication errors, or breach of statutory or regulatory obligations. A nursing home facility can also be held vicariously liable, meaning it can be held responsible for actions taken by its employees, whether or not the actions were taken in the course and scope of the worker’s job duties. In addition, a third party such as another resident, a guest visiting another resident, a contractor, or any other third party can be held liable for abuse or neglect of a nursing home resident.

There can be many indicators of abuse, though any one sign does not necessarily mean a resident is being abused. An individual might be experiencing abuse if they have unexplained bruises on their body or around their genital area, pressure marks, broken bones,or abrasion. Bedsores, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss, and unattended medical needs could indicate neglect. If a resident has a sudden change in alertness, unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, or unusual depression, they may be experiencing emotional abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, alert the police or Adult Protective Services right away. You do not need to prove abuse to make a report.


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