Nursing Home Elder Abuse

What is Considered Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Millions of elderly Americans rely on the care provided by nursing homes. There are over 15,000 nursing home facilities in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These facilities have a duty to provide compassionate, accurate medical care and health support. Unfortunately, elder abuse is a growing problem in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Nursing home managers have many risk management options, including specialized insurance policies designed to protect facilities, staff members, and residents from abuse claims.

In this guide, we will take a deeper look at elder abuse, including identifying and recognizing the signs that abuse may be taking place.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse affects the lives and safety of thousands of people each year. Not restricted to life within nursing homes, this form of abuse is any physical or emotional injury that affects elderly individuals. As an at-risk population, seniors may be preyed upon by family members, caregivers, or even strangers, and can suffer a wide range of negative effects from such abuse. 

Nursing Home Abuse Justice, a leading online advocacy group for seniors, has compiled statistics about elder abuse. According to their statistics, as many as 5 million elderly individuals experience some form of abuse each year in the United States. In addition:

  • About 1 out of every 10 elders over 60 years of age has been abused in some form.
  • Studies indicate that elder abuse is under-reported, with estimates of only 1 out of every 14 incidents being reported to authorities.

What are the 7 Types of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Elder abuse can take many forms and may be physical, mental, or emotional in nature. To better understand this growing problem in nursing homes, knowing the major types and basic warning signs of each form of abuse can help nursing home caregivers and managers to manage risks. 

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The 7 types of elder abuse are:

Physical Abuse – by far the most common form of elder abuse, physical abuse is the use of force or acts of violence that may result in pain or injury. Physical punishments, including restraints or forced feeding, are also considered physical abuse. 

Sexual Abuse – this form of abuse is of non-consensual sexual contact, and may include unwanted touching, rape, sexual assault or battery, or even photographing elderly individuals for sexual purposes.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse – common, yet harder to identify, are emotional or psychological forms of abuse. These forms can include harassment, verbal assaults, humiliation, exclusion, or social isolation; in other words, any non-physical abuse that creates emotional pain or distress may be considered psychological abuse.

Financial Exploitation – elderly individuals are often preyed upon by those seeking to obtain illicit access to banking or financial information. Seniors may be tricked into signing over control of accounts or powers of attorney. Financial exploitation may also include forging an elderly individual’s signature, stealing a senior’s money or possessions, or cashing checks without the authorization of the senior.

Neglect – inflicted by a family member or caregiver, neglect encompasses the refusal or failure to provide an elderly individual with the care and support they need. This can include depriving a senior of food, clothing, bathing options, medication, and shelter, among many essentials. 

Self-Neglect – elderly individuals may exhibit self-harm or threats of self-harm, or may refuse to eat, drink or take medication. These are signs of self-neglect, and may arise in individuals who were physically, sexually, or mentally abused at the hands of others. 

Abandonment – when a caregiver or family member deserts a senior, such as those responsible for providing care and support, abandonment results. This can have a devastating effect on a senior’s physical and emotional health. 

Recognizing the Signs of Elder Mistreatment

Unexplained injuries, such as cuts or bruises, are clear signs that physical abuse may be taking place within the nursing home environment. Harder to spot are the signs of many other forms of abuse. Seniors experiencing sexual or psychological abuse may withdraw or may lash out verbally or physically. Others may begin to neglect daily health management, such as eating or bathing. Still, others may exhibit fear around certain individuals like family members or caregivers.

When elder abuse is concerned, there are three primary risk management components:

  • It is critical that caregivers and nursing home managers watch out for signs of abuse, then take the steps needed to prevent further abuse immediately if those steps are warranted.
  • Training staff on recognizing signs of abuse is critical. So too is managerial oversight, including establishing a reporting system for fellow caregivers and residents to report abuse incidents. 
  •  Finally, nursing homes should be protected from liability concerns with insurance policies. These policies offer financial coverage for claims of neglect and abuse, protecting staff and residents alike. 

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.