10 Types of Elder Abuse & Neglect
Research suggests that one in three elderly persons have been the victims of nursing home abuse in their lifetime, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), two in three staff (at nursing homes and long-term care facilities) reported that they committed an act of abuse within the past year, and the rates of elder abuse and neglect are the highest in long-term care and nursing home facilities.
Elder abuse isn’t always obvious. Some types of abuse, such as psychological abuse, can be harder to recognize. Here are ten types of abuse and neglect to watch for if you’re loved one is in an elder care facility.
1. Physical Abuse
Nursing home staff can sometimes knowingly and intentionally harm residents by kicking, hitting, strapping or tying them to beds and chairs, etc. While any nursing home resident can be the victim of physical abuse, those at greater risk include those with cognitive disorders or Alzheimer’s disease. Physical elder abuse presents a great danger to residents because it can result in serious injuries or even death.
If an elderly person is left to fend for themselves and kicked out of a facility or their home, that is considered elder abandonment. Unfortunately, this form of abandonment has become more common during the pandemic as facilities removed residents to make room for COVID patients.
3. Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse can be verbal or psychological abuse that occurs when nursing home staff or professionals:
- Insult residents and their appearance, intellect, and/or abilities
- Use threats of violence or harm to control residents
- Control a resident’s actions or visitor’s list to isolate them
Emotional abuse can have life-long effects on victims as they may develop depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health disorders. This form of abuse is the most common type of nursing home abuse; in a 2021 survey from WHO, over 32% of long-term care facility staff claimed to emotionally abuse residents.
4. Financial Exploitation
To get money or other financial gains, staff may try to steal from residents using coercion, lies, or force. Residents likely need those funds to pay for their nursing home bill and care, which put victims of this abuse at risk of losing their financial independence and housing. People may try to financially abuse and exploit residents by:
- Stealing a resident’s case, credit card, valuables, bank records, or personal information
- Disallowing a resident to access their funds
- Misusing a power of attorney to make changes to a resident’s will
5. Neglect of Personal Hygiene
Residents can become sick or can suffer mentally and physically when nursing home staff fails to help them maintain personal hygiene. They may do this by:
- Failing to provide residents with clean clothes as needed
- Failing to check on residents with mobility issues frequently
- Failing to bathe residents or provide hygiene supplies like soap, shampoo, etc. to residents
- Failing to change the bedding regularly or after it has been soiled
6. Sexual Abuse
Nursing home residents may be the victim of unwanted sexual contact (i.e. groping, touching, etc.) or nonconsensual intercourse. If a resident experiences sexual abuse, they may suffer from a sexually transmitted disease, emotional trauma, bruises, or other physical and mental scars.
Self-neglect involves an elderly person not taking care of themselves physically or medically. While this form of abuse typically occurs when an older person lives alone, it can occur if nursing home staff are neglecting residents and do not perform their duties. This can also occur if the facility has understaffing issues, which has become a more common issue facilities face.
8. Medical Neglect
Medical neglect occurs when facility staff no longer met a resident’s healthcare needs; this neglect can lead to serious health complications for residents. Staff may commit medical neglect if they:
- Under or over-medicate residents
- Do not provide proper medical care for a resident’s existing health problems like diabetes
- Allowing residents with mobility issues to remain immobile and obtain bedsores
- Fail to report signs of illness or concerns to doctors or medical staff
9. Emotional Neglect
Facility staff may prevent residents from interacting with one another and/or visitors, which can impact their mood and emotional health. Emotional neglect can occur when staff:
- Isolate vulnerable residents
- Fail to move residents with mental or mobility issues (which does not allow them to make friends)
- Fail to give residents with mobility issues canes or wheelchairs (which isolates them)
10. Neglect of Basic Needs
If a facility is understaffed, overtaxed, or poorly staffed, residents may not have their basic needs met, and the facility itself may be unsafe. Staff may neglect a resident’s basic needs by:
- Not keeping the thermostat set to a seasonally appropriate temperature
- Failing to give residents an adequate amount of food, water, or resources
- Failing to regularly clean resident’s rooms or common areas in the facility
How to Recognize Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Oftentimes, the elderly person or vulnerable person being abused may not be willing to report or tell anyone about the abuse or neglect. In some cases, they may not even be aware of the neglect or abuse. However, other people in their lives can recognize the signs of abuse so that they can act. Warning signs of abuse or neglect can include (but are not limited):
- Changes in behavior or an unwillingness to speak around nursing home staff
- Changes in the abused party’s mood or behavior
- Frequent accidents that require hospitalization
- Injuries such as bedsores, bruises, broken bones, or other severe injuries
- Unexplained changes to their estate plan or bank accounts
- Unsanitary conditions around the facility
- Vomiting, chronic pain, extreme fatigue, or other symptoms of under or over-medication
Reporting Suspected Elder Abuse or Neglect
Florida law mandates that any suspected abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect of elderly or disabled adults is reported. Unfortunately, many instances of abuse or suspected abuse go unreported. In 2019, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report, which revealed that 97% of nursing home abuse cases within five states were not reported as is legally required.
If you witness or uncover abuse or neglect of any kind, you should report it to the police, an attorney, or Adult Protective Services (APS). While it can be daunting to make a report, as you don’t know if you will put the vulnerable person at further risk, remember what’s at stake—the vulnerable person’s wellbeing. If you call an abuse hotline or the police, you will need to provide the following information:
- The location or address of the nursing home
- The victim’s name, address, age, race, and sex
- The signs of abuse or neglect that prompted you to make the report
- The relationship between the victim and the alleged person responsible for them
After you make a report, an investigation will be launched within 24 hours. Law enforcement officers will be contacted if the caregiver refuses to cooperate with the investigation or if the investigation gives investigators reason to believe abuse or neglect has occurred (see Florida Statutes § 415.104). To ascertain whether abuse or neglect may be occurring, investigators will:
- Interview people who may have knowledge of the abuse or a relationship with the victim
- Review the information obtained in interviews and from observations
- Make a determination concerning the validity of the reported allegations
Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Negligence in Florida?
Florida Statute § 400.023 allows for nursing home residents to file nursing home negligence claims against facilities. Families can also file on behalf of their loved ones if the neglect led to or contributed to their death. In your claim, you and your attorney will need to prove that:
- The nursing home facility owed the resident a duty of care.
- They breached their duty of care.
- The claimant/resident suffered injuries or damages because of their breach of duty.
At The Wiseman Law Firm, we are here to help protect the rights of vulnerable persons, including the elderly. If you or a loved one have been the victim of nursing home abuse, our attorney is equipped to help you pursue compensation. To schedule a consultation and learn more about our services, call (407) 708-9127 or complete this online form.