Nursing Home Abuse: Why Does It Happen And How To Prevent It

Aging is a challenging and inevitable part of our lives; time takes its toll on all of us. The decades put into work and supporting the family leaves the elderly with little other than cherished memories to look back upon and search for a comfortable place to spend their retirement days. Moreover, many adults have or develop special needs that can deprive them of enjoying life without robust support. Or worse, plunge them and their families into abject misery. 

Often, families lack the necessary resources or the time to dedicate adequate attention to these members. In such a situation, nursing homes are supposed to be a blessing, providing them with ample medical care and an environment conducive to their health and well-being. 

Unfortunately, as a spat of reported cases in the US indicates, the reality seems to be in marked contrast to the picture painted above. Nursing home abuse is an exacerbating concern. Even with laws set in place, there is still a surprising hesitance to report it and a lack of awareness.

With this article, let’s educate ourselves about how it manifests and what we can do to prevent it so that our loved ones don’t have to suffer the same fate. 


How is abuse defined in these conditions?

Abuse is any intentional mistreatment or harm inflicted upon a person that impairs their ability to function properly in society and damages their physical, mental, and emotional health.  

In a nursing home, this abuse can unfold in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Neglect stems from unhygienic conditions and lack of supervision, increasing infections, and distress. An extreme tell-tale sign of such conditions is stage 3 bedsores– damaged skin tissue due to prolonged pressure in one area. It is so serious that around 60,000 people die yearly from related complications. Additionally, wrongful medication or surreptitious dosing of non-compliant patients is an illegal but common practice. 
  • Physical abuse includes beating, slapping, and using unnecessary and excessive force to “control” the residents.
  • Emotional abuse includes foul language, verbal harassment, humiliation, and condescending remarks that wreak havoc upon the residents’ self-esteem and dignity.
  • Sexual abuse includes voyeurism, rape, and sexual assault.
  • Financial exploitation entails stealing personal belongings, forging signatures on documents, coercing residents or their families into giving “donations” or “gifts” to the facility or its employees, as well as misusing the money sent for the residents’ upkeep. 

These are all ethically repugnant and seriously harmful to the citizens’ welfare. Furthermore, in no way can they be excused, or can the victims, the residents themselves, take the blame.

Why does it happen? 

Several reasons act as early warning signs of abuse in a nursing home. 

One is, for example, a lack of finance. Understaffing inevitably results from a lack of funding. It means fewer people are now available to supervise the residents and provide all of them effective medical care. Some residents are bound to be neglected. In more severe cases, the money to go into their care is extorted for personal gain. 

A poor and lagging screening process for employees also results in hiring unqualified and unskilled employees. It is dangerous, as caring for the elderly, the sick, and those with special needs is tough and arduous. Having ill-prepared members on board sets the facility up for a hostile and unmanageable environment. 

Sadly, most residents are also easy targets for abuse. Their pre-existing health conditions make them unable to defend themselves, and unsupportive families can further heighten their reluctance to report abuse.

How to prevent it? 

According to Nursing Home Abuse Justice, over 5 million elder abuse cases are reported every year in the US. As if this figure wasn’t alarming enough, disabled individuals are at quadrupling risk. Now imagine the thousands of cases that go unreported due to the stigma and victim blaming associated with abusive behaviors. Sickening, right? 


The good news is, there’s a way where there is a will. Prevention measures, as well as solutions, are available at your disposal to help such abuse victims. Friends, family, acquaintances, and the government can play their part in ensuring that a nursing home is fulfilling its duties honestly and diligently. With periodic checks and balances and assessing residents for signs of abuse, worst scenarios can easily be dodged. 

A huge reason abuse continues the way it does is that the caregivers are not up to par with the needs of the residents. It requires the Nursing Home management to mandate training and have stricter hiring criteria to look for discrepancies between candidates’ credentials and their on-site behavior. Past criminal activity or aggressive outbursts should be carefully assessed to see if the person is fit to take care of the emotionally and physically vulnerable residents. 

Lastly, anti-abuse policies should be a core part of the Nursing Home culture, with stringent punishment for violators. Residents and their families should be well aware of these policies and who to contact for help or complaints. No stigma or intimidation should be a part of the process to ensure that victims are not deterred from reporting abuse. 

In addition to having high-quality, fully functional CCTV cameras, a psychologist who can spot indicators of emotional abuse reduces the likelihood of abuse while respecting the residents’ privacy.


Nursing home abuse is a rising problem in the US. It must be mitigated through joint efforts of the facility’s government, family, and administrators. The first step would be to gain awareness about the types of abuse, the reasons which trigger them, and their solutions. In this regard, we hope this article was of help to you.

Elements used to create Featured image Artwork provided by Created by Jill.

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