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Is Nursing Home Abuse Common?

While not every nursing home engages in abusive practices, the prevalence of nursing home abuse is a concerning reality.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics 

  • More than 15,000 complaints were filed with nursing home ombudspersons related to abuse or neglect in 2020.
  • Approximately 24% of nursing home residents experience at least one instance of physical abuse. 
  • A 2020 WHO study reported that more than 65% of nursing home staff members admitted to committing some form of abuse or neglect. In addition, nearly 1 in 3 staff members admitted to committing emotional abuse.
  • As many as five million older adults are impacted by abuse every year, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). 
  • 60% of self-reported elder abuse complaints were related to verbal or emotional harm. 
  • According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), nursing home abuse complaints in 2018 were broken down as follows: 
    • 29% – Physical abuse
    • 22% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
    • 21% – Psychological abuse
    • 14% – Gross neglect
    • 7% – Sexual abuse
    • 7% – Financial exploitation 
  • With 66% of elder abuse victims being female, women are more likely to be abused than men. 
  • Physical elder abuse is increasing at an alarming rate, with reports of assault against men aged 60 or older up by 75% and women up by 35% between 2002 and 2016. 

It is essential to acknowledge that nursing home abuse is likely underreported. Factors such as fear of retaliation, communication barriers, cognitive impairments in residents, and the reluctance of staff to report abuse can contribute to a lack of accurate data. Additionally, detecting abuse can be challenging, as signs may be subtle, or residents may be unable to communicate their experiences.

Contributing Factors

Some key factors that contribute to the commonality of nursing home abuse include:

Understaffing and High Turnover Rates

Insufficient staffing levels and high turnover rates in nursing homes can create a stressful environment for caregivers. Overwhelmed staff may struggle to provide adequate care and attention to residents, increasing the risk of neglect or mistreatment.

Inadequate Staff Training

Without adequate training on recognizing and addressing the needs of elderly residents, staff may inadvertently cause harm or fail to respond appropriately to signs of abuse.

Poorly Managed Facilities

Nursing homes with inadequate management and supervision are more prone to abuse. A lack of effective leadership and oversight can lead to a culture that tolerates mistreatment or neglect of residents.

Insufficient Regulatory Oversight

Weak regulatory oversight and enforcement can contribute to nursing home abuse. Facilities may be less motivated to maintain high standards of care if there are minimal consequences for violations.

Communication Barriers

Communication challenges between residents and staff, or among staff members, can hinder the identification and reporting of abuse. Residents with cognitive impairments may struggle to express mistreatment, and language barriers can impede effective communication.

Inadequate Screening of Caregivers

Insufficient background checks and screening processes for hiring caregivers can allow individuals with a history of abusive behavior to work in nursing homes. Thorough vetting of staff members is crucial to prevent potential abusers from entering caregiving roles.

Social Isolation of Residents

Residents without family or a support system can contribute to their vulnerability. Lack of social interaction and oversight may make it easier for abusive behavior to go unnoticed. 

Nursing Homes Can and Should be held accountable

Nursing Homes Can and Should Be Held Accountable 

If you suspect a loved one is or has suffered abuse in a nursing home, call 911 if you believe they are in immediate danger. Additionally, contact a trusted Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. They can advise you on next steps and your legal options. Arrange a free consultation today.