Nursing home abuse is a terrible crime that affects thousands of vulnerable senior citizens in the United States each year. Yet it is also a little understood issue, with a marked lack of research and data available. As awareness and education grow regarding nursing home and elder abuse, researchers are gaining a better understanding of this heinous crime and why it occurs.
How Common Is Nursing Home Abuse?
The exact answer to this question is unknown, as nursing home abuse is largely underreported. Most authorities on the subject estimate that at least 1 in 10 senior citizens aged 65 and older experience some form of elder abuse each year. In 2020, over 15,000 complaints were filed with ombudsman programs regarding nursing home abuse or neglect. Research also suggests that as little as 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities. This shows a striking disparity in the statistics that are available versus the actual number of nursing home residents who most likely suffer abuse in a given year.
Who Is Most at Risk of Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abusers, including caregivers, nurses, staff members and maintenance crews, tend to target the most vulnerable senior citizens. This includes elderly individuals with disabilities, physical limitations, mental incapacities and dementia. Poor mental and physical health can increase the risk of elder abuse, likely because these individuals are viewed as being the least able to defend themselves and report abuse.
Women are also high-risk nursing home residents in terms of abuse; particularly, sexual abuse. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) stated in a 2018 report that 66 percent of known elder abuse victims were women. Nursing home residents with lower socioeconomic statuses, such as those who rely on Medicaid for nursing home care, may end up at lower-quality facilities and also face a higher risk of neglect and abuse.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
There are four main types of nursing home abuse: physical, emotional, sexual and financial. Physical abuse means to intentionally physically harm a nursing home resident, such as through hits, kicks, slaps and burns. Emotional abuse means to cause emotional or mental harm through insults, bereavement, withholding food or care, isolation, or improper use of restraints. Sexual nursing home abuse refers to an offender sexually assaulting a resident, including inappropriate touching, groping, kissing, penetration or rape. Financial abuse means to steal from a victim, typically through fraud or deceit.
Statistically, emotional abuse is the most prevalent type reported. Data from the NCVC shows that 60 percent of self-reported elder abuse cases involve verbal abuse or emotional harm. The second most commonly reported type of nursing home abuse is physical. An estimated 24.3 percent of nursing home residents suffer this type of abuse, according to one study published in the National Library of Medicine. Around 1 in 20 older adults suffer from financial abuse, while sexual abuse is the least commonly reported at less than 2 percent of elders.
Consequences of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse and neglect can cause wide-ranging trauma for a victim and his or her family. It can cause unnecessary injuries, illnesses and mental health declines. Common examples include broken bones, infections, bedsores, contusions, concussions, burn injuries, lacerations, and emotional injuries. It may also result in clinical issues such as chronic depression, diminished quality or enjoyment of life, and suicide.
The NCVC reports that elder abuse triples the risk of premature death in victims. This means that victims of elder abuse are 300 percent more likely to die than nursing home residents who are not abused. The economic consequences are also immense. According to the National Council on Aging, an estimated $36.5 billion is lost each year due to elder financial abuse alone. In addition, physical injuries caused by elder abuse cost at least $5.3 billion in medical care.
If you or a loved one has suffered nursing home abuse, contact a Kansas City nursing home abuse attorney who can help you seek justice and financial compensation.