Nursing home abuse is a very real problem in the United States. In fact, some experts estimate that for every one case of nursing home abuse that is reported, there are as many as five instances that go unreported. Approximately 40% of all nursing home residents report being the victim of at least one incident of nursing home abuse. And if this all isn’t quite alarming enough, 95% of nursing home residents report having seen other nursing home residents being abused.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nursing home abuse comes in many forms:
The use of physical force can cause acute or chronic illness. It may also cause physical pain, bodily injury, impairment of functioning, physical distress, and in the worst cases, death. Examples of physical abuse include striking a patient; hitting a patient; scratching, biting, or choking patient suffocation; pushing, shaking, shoving, slapping, kicking, or burning a patient. Physical abuse also includes the use of physical or chemical restraints to keep a patient in their bed.
The CDC defines sexual abuse as any forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind. This could include sexual contact by a body part or by an object, forced or unwanted touching, or forcing a person to watch pornography.
The illegal, improper, or unauthorized use of a nursing home resident’s resources for the benefit of someone else is known as financial abuse. This may include taking belongings, using a person’s checkbook or debit card, misappropriating pension payments, forging signatures, using coercion or deception to obtain money or property, or the improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.
Emotional and psychological abuse includes both verbal and non-verbal behavior designed to inflict anguish, fear, mental pain, or distress. This might include humiliation tactics such as name-calling, derisive insults, threatening negative consequences, isolating the person from family or friends, or exercising undue control over a nursing home resident’s decision to leave the home to attend church, visit with family, etc.
Neglect involves a caregiver’s failure to provide a safe environment, proper nutrition and hydration, medical care, good hygiene, clean clothing, human interaction, and other basic needs that result in compromised health and safety.
Inadequate staffing, an absence of quality training of staff, and poor leadership all contribute to a nursing home environment where abuse can occur. Some things to be on the lookout for, whether you have already placed your loved one in a nursing home or are considering it, include:
If you’re presently evaluating nursing homes, Medicare has created a free nursing home checklist you can download. The state of Florida also maintains a nursing home watch list, which includes information on facilities that do not meet minimum standards at the time of inspection. For more information, read our Tips for Health Nursing Home visits before evaluating the nursing home for your loved one.
You should also visit our Nursing Home Injury FAQs page to learn more about red flags to watch out for when visiting a nursing home facility in Florida