Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

As our loved ones age and cannot care for themselves, we must ensure they receive the best care possible. Choosing to place a beloved family member in a care facility is not easy. Many families choose a nursing home that provides residents with dignity, respect, and compassion. Unfortunately, not all facilities treat their residents with the care they deserve. And our personal injury lawyers have seen many types of abuse in nursing homes. 

Nursing home staffing levels rank last in Illinois. Caregivers are frequently overworked, and therefore, overstressed. Understaffing directly relates to the state’s high rate of elder abuse amongst nursing home residents. 

Nursing home abuse and neglect often fall under the legal umbrella of medical malpractice. A medical malpractice lawsuit can arise from genuine medical accidents, intentional harmful acts, or failure to treat a patient. However, residents may be scared to speak up for fear of repercussions or embarrassment.

You must take immediate steps to report elder abuse in order to protect your loved ones if you suspect they’re suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect. Victims who have suffered abuse in Illinois nursing homes may be able to pursue legal action. Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys will fight to get your family member the justice and compensation they deserve for their injuries. If you suspect elder abuse, please call our trusted law firm.

What Constitutes Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes?

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Elder abuse occurs in nursing homes when a medical professional harms an elderly resident or puts them at risk of harm through their actions or inactions.

The Different Types of Elder Abuse

The main types of elder abuse include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional or psychological abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment

Physical Elder Abuse

Physical elder abuse is any harm or violence that significantly injures an older person. Anyone in an elderly person’s life may inflict this type of abuse including family, friends, other residents, and facility staff members. Physical elder abuse may only happen once or repeatedly. Long-term health problems or death may occur from bodily injury because many elderly victims aren’t as strong and healthy as they once were.

What Causes Physical Elder Abuse?

Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), different factors may contribute to elderly physical abuse. A caregiver is more likely to inflict physical harm to an older person when they:

  • Abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Reside with the elderly person
  • Provide emotional or financial support to the elderly person 
  • Have criminal background
  • Have a mental illness
  • Experienced abuse during their childhood

Risk Factors for Physical Elder Abuse

The risk of physical abuse is higher for some elders. Common risk factors include: 

Mental or Physical Illness

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with mental or physical limitations are more likely to be the victim of physical harm. Caregivers may become frustrated with seniors who need more attention or care.


The possibility of unnoticed physical harm exists for seniors who live in remote areas or do not have family nearby. Elderly residents enduring physical pain stemming from the abuse may withdraw from others, making it harder to notice potential abuse. 


According to The National Council on Aging, there is a higher rate of interpersonal violence inflicted on disabled adults.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Typically, the first place to check for signs of abuse is on the senior’s body. Physical abuse may present as: 

Also, note any physical injuries and whether they heal properly. An older person may be suffering abuse if their wounds do not heal or new injuries appear. Nursing home patients with advanced stages of pressure sore injuries, particularly stage 4 bedsores, are at a high risk, and these types of injuries are avoidable when proper care is administered. We urge those who suspect nursing home abuse or elder abuse to seek professional medical advice from a trusted physician.

Emotional Abuse

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Verbal or nonverbal actions that cause residents emotional harm is considered emotional abuse. The state of Illinois has a lengthy track record of nursing home staff members emotionally abusing residents. However, other residents may also inflict this type of verbal abuse. Emotional abuse is especially damaging to the elderly because it may lead to the deterioration of their physical health.

Some examples of emotional abuse include: 

  • Threatening or intimidating a resident via verbal assaults
  • Shouting or yelling at a resident
  • Giving a resident “the silent treatment”
  • Isolating a resident from family and friends
  • Preventing a resident from participating in social activities
  • Threatening to withhold water or food  

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

There are instances where staff take advantage of nursing home residents. Unfortunately, those unable to care for themselves may easily fall victim to physical or sexual abuse in assisted living facilities and even in their own home. 

A National Center of Elder Abuse study found that seven percent of nursing home abuse complaints were for sexual abuse. Further, 79-year-old females are the most likely victims per the Illinois Department of Aging. Abusers are frequently those close to the victim, such as nursing home staff, visitors, and other residents. 

Sexual abuse of nursing home residents takes several forms, including: 

  • Forced nudity
  • Forced pornography viewing
  • Unwanted sexual contact with another resident
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault

It’s especially important to know whether your loved one has the physical or mental ability to consent to sexual activity. If they don’t, any sexual advance should be considered sexual abuse, and any “unprofessional touch” should be considered non-consensual sexual contact. 

Perpetrators often victimize vulnerable persons, such as those with dementia, because they cannot say no or understand what is happening. Sexually abused victims often become depressed, shutting out friends and family members.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Victims of elder abuse often do not disclose their abuse. Knowing this, family members and friends must remain watchful for signs of sexual abuse.

Common signs of elder sexual abuse include:

  • Rectal or vaginal bleeding
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD)
  • Torn or bloody undergarments
  • Torso, inner thigh, or genital bruising
  • Discomfort or pain when sitting
  • Depression or self neglect
  • Aggressive sexual behavior
  • Agitation when potential abusers are near

Financial Elder Abuse

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Financial elder abuse occurs when a nursing home resident’s personal belongings or money are stolen from them. The National Institute on Aging says this type of abuse includes removing valuables from the resident’s room, using their credit cards or bank accounts, forging checks, or stealing their retirement or Social Security benefits.

Financial elder abuse also includes changing names on the older person’s will, bank accounts, the title to their home, and insurance policies, oftentimes to advance one’s own financial situation. 

In addition to theft of money or belongings, financial abuse includes financial neglect, exploitation, and health care fraud. 

Financial Neglect

When a caregiver fails to take care of an older person’s financial responsibilities, financial neglect occurs. This includes ignoring bills such as rent or a mortgage, property taxes, or utility bills. 

Financial Exploitation

Mismanaging, misusing, or exploiting assets, belongings, or property is financial exploitation. This includes using an older person’s assets under false pretenses, without consent, or through manipulation or intimidation. 

Healthcare Fraud

Hospital staff, physicians, or other healthcare providers can commit this type of financial abuse. Healthcare fraud includes:

  • Charging for care that health professionals did not provide
  • Overcharging
  • Falsifying Medicare or Medicaid claims
  • Billing multiple times for the same service

What Are Signs of Elder Financial Abuse?

The National Institute on Aging reports that financial abuse can be difficult to spot. However, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) lists signs that indicate possible financial abuse of your loved one: 

  • They can’t remember important financial matters or transactions
  • Changes in spending behavior
  • Anxiety about finances
  • Securities, cash, and other valuables that disappear
  • Giving a new person control of their finances

Elder Neglect

What Causes Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect happens when residents don’t receive proper care and suffer mental or physical health problems.  

The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 15.3% of elder abuse victims suffered neglect in a nursing home. 

Inadequate staffing is often the cause of elder abuse in a nursing home. Overworked and stressed employees may be unable to provide the level of care required to keep residents healthy. Residents need medical care, proper nutrition, hydration, shelter, and safe, sanitary living conditions. Understaffing, improper training, and negligent hiring processes contribute to caregiver stress and put patients at a higher risk for elder neglect.

In addition to neglect of basic living needs, negligence includes personal hygiene neglect, medical neglect, and social and emotional neglect.      

Malnutrition and Dehydration

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Malnourishment results from an imbalanced diet. This may be caused by a resident consuming too little food, minerals, vitamins, and other substances the human body needs to thrive. A malnourished person may suffer various health issues that include: 

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor concentration
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Being cold all the time 
  • Weakened immune system
  • Poor or slow wound healing
  • Increased risk of hospitalization 
  • Wrongful death 

An increased risk of malnourishment and dehydration exists when older adults frequently vomit or have diarrhea. Seasonal illnesses such as the flu are particularly hazardous for the elderly.  


Dehydration occurs when a body loses more fluids than it receives. Severe dehydration can severely impact the kidneys and other parts of the urinary system. Death may occur if a senior’s blood pressure drops too low and the body slows blood flow to non vital organs like the kidneys.  

Warning signs of dehydration include:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Reduced urine output
  • Dizziness and exhaustion
  • Dry tongue or mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • No sweating
  • Sunken or hollow eyes or cheeks

Mild cases of dehydration or malnourishment may only require that a senior consume more water or food. Medical intervention such as intravenous nutrients or fluids may be necessary for more severe cases. 

Elder Abandonment

Abandonment occurs when a caregiver deserts or neglects elderly nursing home residents and does not make arrangements for their continued care. This places seniors suffering from a mental impairment, such as Alzheimer’s, in danger.

Victims of abandonment may appear lost, frightened, or confused. Other signs include an older adult who looks lonely or depressed, frail, has poor hygiene, is dehydrated or malnourished.  

Abandonment is also another side effect of the decreased number of nursing home staff members. Nursing home residents may try to take care of themselves and get hurt when the staff members don’t meet their needs.

Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

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The Chicago elder abuse attorneys at Curcio & Casciato focus on all types of nursing home abuse cases. Our legal team stands against the ill-treatment of seniors who deserve respect and the ability to enjoy their later years. 

Family members trust that the nursing home caring for their loved one has their best interests in mind. When an assisted living facility breaks that trust, you need a law firm with extensive experience with nursing home abuse on your side.  

Our super lawyers treat every claim of elder mistreatment as a priority. We’ll work hard to pursue justice for your loved one. Curcio & Casciato is standing by to help you. Just call us at (312) 321-1111 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. 

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