The 7 Types of Nursing Home Abuse

There are about 1.5 million older adults living in nursing homes across the U.S. While these individuals have rights to environments that promote their safety, health, and well-being, they are considered a vulnerable population because mental and physical incapacitation can put them at an increased risk of being abused. There are a variety of types of abuse in a nursing home.

Nursing home abuse and neglect are much more common than you may even realize. Just take a look at some of these statistics from the Nursing Home Abuse Justice website:

  • About one in ten elders over 60 years old have been abused.
  • As many as 5 million elders are abused each year.
  • About two out of three nursing home abuse victims are female.
  • Studies indicate that about 50% of dementia patients experience nursing home abuse.
  • Those with mental impairments are particularly vulnerable to abuse.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

The National Center of Elder Abuse (NCEA) identifies seven different types of nursing home abuse and neglect. Below, we discuss each one in detail and warning signs that you may use to identify such acts.

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse
  • Financial Exploitation
  • Material Exploitation
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Self-Neglect

Physical Abuse

Elder physical abuse is considered the act of using intentional force against someone that results in bodily injury, physical impairment, pain, or even death. Such acts that may be considered physical abuse include hitting, punching, shoving, kicking, pinching, or burning. It can also be considered force-feeding or the inappropriate use of drugs.

Some common types of injuries sustained during physical abuse among elders include:

  • Broken bones
  • Bruises
  • Burns
  • Dislocated joints
  • Sprains
  • Tooth loss

Additionally, here are a few ways that you may be able to identify physical abuse:

  • A pattern of hospitalization
  • Signs of self-treated injuries
  • Poor explanations for the elder’s injuries
  • Trips to different emergency rooms
  • Delayed medical care for injuries
  • Sudden, unexpected hair loss

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse among elders is the act of violating a resident in some unwanted sexual capacity. This person may be unable to give consent or be incapable of understanding the situation. Sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to, unwanted touching, groping, sexual battery, sexual assault, coerced nudity, or rape.

Here are some signs of elder sexual abuse that can help you identify it:

  • Bruises around the breasts or genitals
  • Unexplained genital infections or STDs
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Panic attacks
  • Pain while walking
  • Torn, bloody, or stained underwear
  • The elder reporting being sexually assaulted

Types of Emotional/Psychological Nursing Home Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse is considered the intentional infliction of anguish, pain, fear, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. This may include verbal assaults, insults, threats, humiliation, name-calling, intimidation, harassment, isolation.

A few signs of emotional abuse among elders include:

  • Isolation from friends and family members
  • Appearing disturbed or scared, especially around the abuser
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding eye contact

Financial or Material Exploitation

Financial or material exploitation is defined as the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an elder’s funds, assets, or property. This is often done by someone in a trusted relationship with the elder, such as a caregiver. Examples of elder financial exploitation include cashing or signing an elder’s checks without permission, coercing the elder into signing a document, or stealing money from their wallet or bank account.

Here is how you can identify this type of nursing home abuse:

  • A pattern of missing belongings or money
  • The elder discussing financial arrangements more frequently
  • The elder changing their last will and testament
  • ATM withdrawals, when the elder could not have left the facility
  • The elder not understanding their own financial situation


Elder neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to provide the proper care to a patient or protect them from harm. Neglect is not an accidental overlook, but a result of carelessness, indifference, or lack of regard for the well-being of the elder patient. Ultimately, this means an elder may not be provided with food, water, personal hygiene, medication, or comfort they should receive.

Some ways that elder neglect may be committed include when a caregiver:

  • Leaves the patient alone for extended periods of time
  • Allows a resident to remain uncleaned in their own waste
  • Fails to provide the necessary food and water
  • Forgets to administer medications
  • Dismisses a resident’s complaints or needs
  • Not reporting injuries to medical staff


Abandonment is defined as a caregiver deserting an elder when they had assumed responsibility for this person. For instance, the caregiver may leave the hospital, nursing home facility, or the elder’s home without any formal arrangement on who would look after the elder when they were gone.

Victims of elder abandonment may show the following signs:

  • Appear confused, scared, or lonely
  • Look depressed
  • Seem frail, malnourished, or dehydrated
  • Have poor hygiene


Commonly overlooked as a form of elder abuse, self-neglect happens when an elderly person is no longer able to take care of themselves or meet their own daily needs but makes no arrangements to get those needs met. It generally manifests as the person refusing to go into a nursing home or provide themselves with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, or medication.

We Are Here For Your Family

If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, you should not hesitate to take action immediately. If there is any reason to suspect that your elderly one is in imminent danger, you should contact your local police station right away. Additionally, it’s crucial that you get the help of a local nursing home abuse attorney who can advise you of your family’s legal rights.

At Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman, our family is committed to protecting yours. We have two convenient offices located in Hernando and Southaven, and we also serve the surrounding areas of Mississippi. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about your legal options moving forward.

Contact our attorneys to schedule your free case review.