·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: Causes, Effects, and Consequences

— July 25, 2022

Nursing home staff, families of patients, and patients that can must also speak up when they see something wrong.

More than 40% of nursing home residents have reported being abused in some way (27% physical, 19% psychological, 8% sexual), and over 90% have reported being neglected. Not only does this abuse and neglect affect the victims, but it also affects their families. Here’s a look at why this abuse and neglect occurs, how it affects the victims, and what can/should happen to those responsible for nursing home abuse and neglect.

What Causes Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes?

Not all abuse and neglect that occurs in nursing homes are the result of staff with malicious intent— meaning that the majority of nursing home staff don’t plan to harm their patients. Most of the harm that does happen is often a result of other issues within the nursing home. Of course, this is no excuse for the abuse and neglect of patients, and it’s certainly not a reason to continue this mistreatment, but solving these issues may cut down on the occurrence of abuse and neglect.

Inexperienced Staff

Most organizations train their staff before they start working, but many forget that ongoing training is just as important. In nursing homes, patients’ needs change over time, and the staff must be able to use their knowledge to adapt to their patients’ needs. When this doesn’t happen, this can lead to errors in care and treatment.

Staffing Issues

Just like any other type of business, nursing homes must be fully staffed to provide the best care and services to their patients. When a nursing home is understaffed, more work falls on the workers who are present, and they’re not able to provide quality care for all patients.

Underpaid Staff

The highest-paid individuals within a nursing home system are typically those working in higher positions. This means that those working directly with patients daily are likely the lowest-paid workers. Because of this, nursing home staff may feel undervalued and therefore, unmotivated to provide high-quality care.

Again, none of these are excuses for abuse and neglect, but these reasons make it more likely for other staff members to overlook the harm that comes to patients as a result.

What Happens to Patients who are Abused/Neglected?

Victims of nursing home abuse and neglect can face a variety of health problems— and sometimes even die as a result of this type of harm. Abuse can be physical, verbal, and even sexual, while neglect is defined as not meeting the needs of each patient. Both abuse and neglect can result in things like:

  • Bed sores
  • Broken bones/fractures 
  • Falls
  • Medication errors
  • Wrongful death 

Who is Most Likely to be a Victim in a Nursing Home?

Nursing Homes Pushing "Ultrahigh Intensity" Care for Large Medicare Payouts?
Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

Overall, women are more likely to be victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. This is because women are viewed as more vulnerable than men. Another reason is that women live longer than men, so women are more likely to be residents of nursing homes. Those with additional needs are also more likely to be victims.

Those With Cognitive Illnesses

Patients with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia, are more likely to suffer abuse and neglect. The nature of this disease makes it extremely difficult to care for patients— especially with inexperienced staff, underpaid staff and understaffing.

Those With Mental Illnesses

Mental illness can affect people of all ages, including those of senior citizen age— which the majority of nursing patients are. Patients with mental illnesses can also be extremely difficult to care for.

Those With Physical Disabilities

Patients with physical disabilities also need more care and can be harder to care for. They’re more likely to be victims of neglect.

Justice for Victims of Abuse and Neglect

Claims can be filed against nursing homes for falls, abuse, and neglect. Residents who have been harmed (no matter how minor) must get the justice that they deserve. Bed sores and falls are some of the most common and most serious injuries that nursing home patients suffer. Bed sores can lead to infections and even death, and falls can lead to broken bones and also death.

For nursing home abuse and neglect to come to an end, many people have to be involved. First, nursing homes must make sure that their staff is fully trained and experienced to care for patients of all backgrounds, and all nursing homes should be fully staffed. Nursing home staff, families of patients, and patients that can must also speak up when they see something wrong.

Join the conversation!