Nursing Home Abuse FAQs

What are the causes of nursing home abuse?

A large number of nursing home abuse cases have been attributed to under qualified and inexperienced staff. Employees that are unable to handle different nursing home situations may take out their frustrations on nursing home residents. Supervisors who are uninvolved in the daily activities and functions of their facility often fail to recognize the events and conditions that can lead to instances of abuse and exploitation.

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How prevalent is nursing home abuse?

Over 1.5 million Americans reside in over 16,000 nursing homes across this country. A recent study conducted by the U.S. government concluded that more than half of the suspicious deaths studied in nursing homes were probably due to nursing home neglect, including malnutrition and dehydration. Unreported instances of abuse must also be taken under consideration when evaluating this statistic.

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What makes an older adult vulnerable to abuse?

Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease) are two factors that may make an older person more vulnerable to abuse. But, in some situations, studies show that living with someone else (a caregiver or a friend) may increase the chances for abuse to occur. A history of domestic violence may also make a senior more susceptible to abuse.

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What are some signs that indicate nursing home neglect or abuse could be occurring?

Any of the following signs should warrant further investigation:

  • Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, sprains, or fractures in various stages of healing
  • Bedsores or frozen joints
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections; vaginal or anal bleeding; torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Staff refusing to allow visitors to see resident or delays in allowing visitors to see resident
  • Staff not allowing resident to be alone with visitor.
  • Resident being kept in an over-medicated state.
  • Loss of resident's possessions
  • Sudden large withdrawals from bank accounts or changes in banking practices
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What are different types of nursing home abuse?

There are different forms of nursing home abuse that can affect nursing home residents. Mental abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and exploitation/financial abuse can occur and is often characterized by signs from those affected.

  • Mental - fear, agitation, hesitancy, depression, withdrawal, sudden behavior changes, unusual behavior patterns, unwillingness to communicate, disorientation, confusion, unjustified isolation, rude, humiliating, derogatory comments by staff, specific complaints by resident
  • Physical - wounds, cuts, abrasions, burns, bruises, welts, swelling, broken bones, sudden, inexplicable weight loss, unexplained/hidden injuries, unwarranted restraints (either physical or chemical), specific complaints by residents
  • Neglect - bed sores (decubitus ulcers), unsanitary environment, malnutrition, dehydration, smells of urine and/or feces, unkempt appearance, poor personal hygiene, untreated medical condition, specific complaints by residents
  • Exploitation/Financial Abuse- sudden, unjustified selling of property, missing/stolen money or property, radical changes in handling personal/financial affairs, specific complaints by residents
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How Can I Choose A Safe Nursing Home?

As with any important decision, proper consultation and research can help put your mind at ease with your final decision. Here are some tips that may make the process a bit easier:

  • The nursing home and its administrator should be licensed by the State to operate.
  • Do the nursing home's procedures to screen potential employees for a history of abuse meet your State's requirements? Your State's Ombudsman program might be able to help you with this information.
  • Some nursing homes have special service units like rehabilitation, Alzheimer's, and hospice. Learn if there are separate waiting periods or facility guidelines for when residents would be moved on or off the special unit.
  • Do the nursing home's training programs educate employees about how to recognize resident abuse and neglect, how to deal with aggressive or difficult residents, and how to deal with the stress of caring for so many needs? Are there clear procedures to identify events or trends that might lead to abuse and neglect, and on how to investigate, report, and resolve your complaints?
  • Are there policies or procedures to safeguard resident possessions?
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FAQs - Nursing Home Abuse Frequently Asked Questions page updated on 12/04/2006.