The 7 Types of Nursing Home Abuse

The 7 Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Right now, there are more than 1.4 million seniors living in nursing homes — not a completely startling statistic. One that is startling is that about one in 10 elders above the age of 65 suffers from at least one type of nursing home abuse.

Their current states make them an especially vulnerable population, with mental and physical incapabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to:

  • Understanding a situation they are in

  • Vocalize their situation to others

  • Defend themselves against their abusers

  • Get out of their dangerous or unsafe environments

The National Center on Elder Abuse recognizes seven different types of elder abuse. Below, we discuss each of these types and what can be done if you believe your loved one is being abused.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is one of the most common types of elder abuse and is defined as the physical use of force that can result in pain, bodily injury, or impairment. This includes acts of violence, such as hitting, shoving, beating, grabbing, kicking, pinching, or burning.

It can also include the inappropriate use of physical restraints to force-feed or force medications. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that elders who have been physically abused have a 300% greater risk of dying prematurely, compared to those who have not.

Sexual Abuse

This type of abuse is considered a forced sexual interaction that the elder did not consent to, or a sexual interaction that occurred when the elder was incapable of giving consent. Not only can this type of abuse lead to physical injuries, but it can also cause emotional trauma for both the individual and their family members.

In some cases, it can even lead to sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Data from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the World Health Organization (WHO) show that sexual abuse is the least reported type of elder abuse.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, emotional pain, or distress. This can include verbal acts, such as verbal assaults, screaming, insults, or threats. It may also include more non-verbal or indirect means of abuse, such as humiliation, intimidation, or isolating the elder from their friends or family.

Financial Exploitation

This abuse occurs when someone steals or “swindles” an elder’s funds, property, or other assets. A few examples of financial exploitation include:

  • Cashing the elder’s checks without permission

  • Forging the elder’s signature

  • Physically stealing their money or other possessions

  • Deceiving the older person into “willingly” giving them money


While physical abuse is the result of intentional physical harm, neglect results from someone refusing or failing to take proper care of the elder’s health and safety. In other words, when you give a nursing home or another person the responsibility to provide care services and they do not fulfill the basic needs of the person, that is considered elder neglect.

Neglect typically results from the failure or refusal to provide the elder with basics like food, water, clean clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, or assisting using the bathroom. The types of care and essentials can be either implied and agreed upon.


This is the desertion of an elder by someone who has assumed responsibility of care for that individual.


Self-neglect is considered a situation where an elderly individual threatens their own life, health, or safety. This type of behavior generally manifests itself as an elder refusing to eat or drink, take medication, or keep up with personal hygiene.

While nursing home staff may be unable to physically force medication or food, for instance, without hurting the individual, the staff has a responsibility to keep track of the elder’s safety and health and decide what measures must be taken if self-neglect is present.

Helping Your Family Heal from Nursing Home Abuse

No human being should have to endure abuse or neglect, especially at the hands of those that their family trusts to take care of them. If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected at their nursing home, you must take action immediately and:

  • Call 9-1-1 or local police

  • Report it to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services by calling 1-866-ENDHARM

  • Seek the assistance of an elder abuse attorney

Our firm is here to give a voice to your family in trying times. We will fight tirelessly to hold nursing homes and staff accountable for their wrongdoings and help you pursue compensation for your family.

Contact Kornfeld Law at (425) 657-5255 to get started with a free consultation. There’s no obligation and out-of-pocket fees to sit down with Robert Kornfeld and discuss your legal options moving forward with an elder abuse case.


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