Nursing Home Abuse: How Common Is it, How to Report it

A nursing home is supposed to be a safe environment where the elderly live out their golden years. However, threats might still seep through the facility walls. These threats are usually internal, done at the hand of staff members or even other residents. In fact, two out of three staff members have admitted that they have committed abuse during their work.

If a resident was subject to any form of abuse, it should be reported, so that justice is served. Before you contact the proper authorities make sure that the incident is documented. Depending on the nature of the event, you can report it to the nursing home administration, call 911, and call a qualified attorney, if you want to take legal action.


Common Forms of Abuse

Abuse in nursing homes first broke the news during 1970, when public attention turned to what was going on behind the walls of facilities. However, since then, more regulations have been set in play and better oversight is provided.

It is difficult to definitively say which is the most common form of abuse in nursing homes. Studies that have approached the topic to operationalize the working concepts differently, employ different methodologies, samples, and so on, which makes them arrive at different answers. What is more, abuse usually does not refer to a singular event. It is not uncommon for victims to be exposed to multiple forms at the same time.

In the following, we will take a closer look at the most common forms of abuse in nursing homes.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse includes yelling and ridiculing someone. Any remarks that cause insult or that mock the resident qualify as abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse accounts for about 27.4% of abuse reported in nursing homes. If the resident was hit, grabbed, or pushed, that qualifies as abuse.

Psychological Abuse

Many devious actions qualify as this type of abuse. A rather common practice is to take or use photographs taken without consent to cause humiliation to the victim. 19.4% of abuse reports filed against nursing homes are regarding psychological abuse.

Financial Exploitation

Sometimes residents are targeted for financial gain. In fact, 7.9% of cases of abuse within the facility are linked to this. Patients might be subjected to extortion or blackmail to get some money off of them. Another form of financial exploitation is to monetize access to products and services included in the care.

Sexual Abuse

Residents may fall victim to sexual abuse. This means any kind of non-consensual contact with a sexual element. As is common for sexual abuse victims, the elderly often do not speak of the incident or report it out of fear of embarrassment.


Neglect is characterized in general terms as a failure to offer service and care without provoking pain or suffering. Furthermore, it can be extended to include a lack of proper response when a resident is exposed to potential danger.


Neglect adds up to 15.3% of nursing home abuse. This often leads to high levels of anxiety in residents, and sometimes physical symptoms are visible too. For example, bedsores can be (but not necessarily are) a sign of neglect since they can be prevented with continuous round-the-clock care of the patient.

Abuse Between Residents

When talking about nursing home abuse, the usual suspect is the staff. But what about the unusual suspect? Abuse between residents is not that uncommon, adding up to 22.1% of abuse cases. Unfortunately, bullies can be anywhere.


The signs of abuse are there, they will become visible if you look hard enough. Maintain regular contact with the resident and pay attention to any questions in your conversations. During your visits, observe how they and others behave, take notes of any changes or strange occurrences.


Sometimes abuse leaves physical marks. Compared to the other types of signs, these are the easiest to spot. If you see any bruises on your loved one or an injury that has no seeming explanation, it might be time to take legal action.


Keep an eye on any sudden changes in an elder’s behavior. This might be an indication that they have suffered some kind of abuse. They can retreat and not engage in activities that they have previously enjoyed, or explicitly avoid certain people or places.

How to Report it?

To begin with, staff members have to report to their superiors any incidents of abuse that come to their attention. Residents can also take this step. However, if their abuser is part of the staff, they might find it more difficult to act. That is why offering support to victims is so important. A stance has to be taken against aggressions of any kind.

Here are the most important steps to follow if abuse has occurred:

1. Document the Incident

It is not enough to talk about the events in question, proof must be provided as well. The more proof you have, the better your chances of being heard. Documentation should start right after the event, the sooner, the better. Take photographs of any visible signs from different angles.

Furthermore, the resident can be taken to an independent doctor for a consultation. A medical report could attest to the possibility of abuse. Make sure to include any written documents from the doctor in your evidence log.

It might also happen that the incident is caught on camera by someone. Witnesses might also be present. Talk to anyone who saw what happened. Make sure that you know how to reach them if more information will be needed.

2. Report the Incident

Any incident of abuse should be reported to the proper authorities. Depending on the nature of the incident, you can bring it to the attention of the nursing home administration. However, if they are the main culprit, it is advised to consult a lawyer first. You should also call 911 and contact state authorities.

3. Take Legal Action

If you decide to take things one step further and seek legal repercussions, contact a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer as well. They will closely analyze the specifics of your case and help you get compensation for the suffered abuse.

Make Nursing Homes Safe Again

Nursing homes are supposed to be a safe environment where the elderly reside. Offering care and protection is their main function. When there is a breach, and the patient’s well-being comes under attack, it is important to take action. Not only to seek justice for what happened but also to help prevent future incidents.

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