Scales of Justice

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

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Although most nursing home abuse cases relate to acts of physical harm, there are other equally damaging forms of abuse, and their signs aren’t always outwardly noticeable.

Elder Abuse Defined

Every state has its own statutes and regulations regarding elder abuse, but most definitions describe elder abuse as an intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver that results in harm or risk of harm to an older adult.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) distinguish the primary forms of elder abuse as:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Financial/material exploitation

Both the NCEA and the CDC further detail abandonment and self-neglect as elder abuse categories, but these types of abuse are rarely associated with the institutional abuse that occurs in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, group homes and other types of care centers.

Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

Physical abuse is the most common form of nursing home abuse, according to NCEA research. Approximately 30 percent of all nursing home abuse complaints are related to physical harm.

The CDC defines physical abuse as “the intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death.” Physical abuse most often relates to a caregiver inflicting, or threatening to inflict, pain or injury on an elderly individual.

However, the NCEA notes that physical abuse can also include the intentional withholding a basic need such as water, food, medication or medical treatment, or the inappropriate use of medication or physical restraints.

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Sexual abuse entails any type of nonconsensual sexual act. This act does not have to be physical in nature.

Although many instances of sexual abuse in nursing homes are related to forced physical contact such as unwanted touching or rape, there are other forms of sexual abuse. In recent years, a number of high-profile nursing home abuse cases have focused on instances in which elderly victims have been coerced into nudity, or unknowingly photographed or filmed while nude.

Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Emotional abuse includes any verbal or nonverbal behavior that causes anguish, fear or distress.

Emotional abuse is behavior intended to humiliate, threaten, isolate or control an elderly adult. It can include verbal insults, harassment and intimidation, or stem from nonverbal actions such as ignoring an older adult in need or segregating the victim from contact with others.

Neglect in Nursing Homes

Nursing home neglect is the failure of a caregiver to meet the essential needs of an elderly resident. This includes basic human needs such as food and water, and adequate clothing and shelter.

In the context of elder care, it may also include personal hygiene, medication, medical treatment, an appropriate level of physical comfort, and a safe living environment. One of the most common signs of neglect in nursing homes is the onset of bed sores in those who are largely confined to a bed or a wheelchair; bed sores are wounds caused by long periods of immobilization without intermittent movement, and they can lead to life-threatening infections without proper treatment.

Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Financial abuse or material exploitation is the illegal or improper use an elderly person’s funds, assets or personal property. In the realm of nursing home abuse, financial abuse is the unauthorized or improper use of an elderly individual’s resources by a caregiver for the benefit of someone other than the nursing home resident.

Examples include forgery; misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to access finances or property; and improper use of guardianship or power of attorney. In addition to forms of theft and misappropriation, financial abuse can include depriving an elderly person of access to, information about, or use of personal resources, benefits or assets.

Help for Nursing Home Abuse Victims

The attorneys at Carr & Carr are dedicated to helping nursing home abuse victims and their families from Oklahoma and Arkansas.

If you believe a loved one may be suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact us online or call 866-510-0580 for a free consultation. With offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Springdale, AR, our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys are available when you need us most.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Elder Abuse: Definitions; http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/definitions.html

National Center on Elder Abuse; Fact Sheet: Types of Elder Abuse in Domestic Settings; http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/fact1.pdf

National Center on Elder Abuse; Types of Abuse; http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/FAQ/Type_Abuse/index.aspx

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