Skip to Content
Virginia Injury & Will Contest Attorneys

An Overview of Nursing Home Abuse

Old man with gray hair sits in a wheelchair in a medical facility staring out the window

The widespread occurrence of elder abuse, particularly within nursing homes, is a shocking issue in the United States. Sadly, it is a growing problem. While many facilities and the vast majority of their workers diligently endeavor to provide safe and caring environments for our elders, that is not the case everywhere. There are several forms of abuse that elders endure in many nursing homes, and they are all equally detrimental to the health and well-being of their residents.

Read on to learn more about nursing home abuse.

Forms of Nursing Home Abuse

Even though it is hard to fathom someone abusing or taking advantage of people during their last stage of life, it happens in U.S. nursing homes far more often than one might think. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one study concludes that at least 10% of elders in nursing homes endure some form of abuse.

The following are the five different types of nursing home abuse:

  • Physical
  • Psychological or verbal
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Neglect

An innovative New York study found that elders self-reported financial abuse as the most common form of abuse they endured.

Hurdles in the Study of Nursing Home Abuse


There are no universal definitions of nursing home abuse, which makes studying the phenomenon a bit of a challenge. Each study must develop its own set of definitions for research purposes, which makes the comparison of studies and their results quite difficult.

Moral Obstacles

There can be significant legal, financial, and social consequences for elders and caregivers who are studied. Additionally, when abuse is identified, confidentiality creates its own obstacles in this type of research.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

The IRB approval process can be lengthy, mostly because of their unfamiliarity with the study of nursing home abuse. What’s more, nursing home abuse studies have a tendency to involve several agencies with several IRBs, and they each have their own guidelines. Similarly, there are no federal regulations that govern the study of older people, people with impacted decision-making skills, or nursing home residents along with residents of other institutions.

Inconclusive Results

There are many nursing home abuse studies out there, but they don’t all draw similar conclusions. This is because each study has its own:

  • Operational definition
  • Accessible administrative data
  • Samples
  • Methods

In addition, many nursing home abuse victims endure several forms of mistreatment, which makes it difficult to decipher each form individually.


While many nursing home abuse studies draw different conclusions, the following are some of the results from some of those studies:

  • A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that approximately 10% of elders endure some form of abuse.
  • A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that 9% of the sample size endured verbal abuse, 3.5% endured financial abuse, and less than 1% endured physical abuse.
  • An innovative New York study inferred that about 1 in 13 elders were victims of elder abuse during the year prior. The study also found that financial abuse occurred the most often, before emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.
  • The New York Elder Abuse Prevalence Study concluded that nursing home abuse is widely underreported. For every one known case of abuse, the study found that there were 24 more that were not reported.

Risk Factors

Several elements influence how pervasive nursing home abuse might be for different populations. Although research results do vary, the following data points are retrieved from several sources:

  • A study from the National Academies of Sciences found that those who lack social support are significantly more susceptible to nearly all types of abuse.
  • A 2012 study found that nearly half of all dementia patients experience a form of abuse.
  • A study from the American Journal of Public Health determined that those who have endured traumatic events in the past are significantly more likely to sustain abuse.
  • A New England Journal of Medicine study concluded that elders with functional disabilities and suboptimal health have an increased risk of abuse.
  • A 2008 study found that women have a higher risk of abuse than men.
  • Multiple studies have determined that younger elders in their 50s and 60s actually report verbal or financial abuse more often than older adults.
  • A study in the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect determined that low income or poverty is connected to higher rates of nursing home abuse.
  • According to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the following elements have been determined to correlate to the existence of elder exploitation:
    • Non-use of social services
    • Need for ADL assistance
    • Poor self-rated health
    • No spouse/partner
    • African-American race
    • Lower age

Elder Abuse Culprits

The following categories of people have been found to have a higher likelihood to engage in nursing home abuse:

  • Males
  • People with a history of substance abuse
  • Those with mental or physical health issues
  • People with a history of legal problems
  • Those who are socially isolated
  • Those who are unemployed or have financial issues
  • People who are under extreme levels of stress

A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that nearly 15% of abused elders experience mistreatment from their home care aides.

According to a study by the National Association of Adult Protective Services (NAPSA), over a three-month period, 51% of news articles about elder financial misconduct involved actions attributed to strangers.

We’re Here to Help

If you suspect your loved one is enduring abuse in a nursing home, we may be able to help you secure justice. Our team regularly helps people seek justice and right wrongs arising from elder abuse. We may be able to assist you, too. Don’t hesitate to contact our office with your case right away. Abusers should never be allowed to get away with the mistreatment of people, especially those who are the most vulnerable. Chances are, it’s not the first time it has happened; and unless someone stops them, it certainly won’t be the last.

If your loved one is being abused, our lawyers at Obenshain Law Group can help you seek the justice your family deserves. Give us a call at (540) 318-7360 or fill out an online contact form.