Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse in nursing homes is a serious problem that is far more common than many people want to believe. If your loved one has suffered physical abuse, sexual assault, or wrongful death at the hands of the nursing home you hired to care for them, Sokolove Law may be able to help you pursue compensation.

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Forms of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is most likely to occur when ill or aging seniors become dependent on others to provide some form of care. This could include nursing home staff, in-home caretakers, or other paid professionals.

Four common types of elder abuse are:

  • Emotional: Anguish or distress caused by verbal or nonverbal acts, such as yelling, threatening, belittling, or isolating the older adult. Emotional abuse often goes hand in hand with physical abuse.
  • Physical: Violence that causes an injury, including wrongful death
  • Neglect: Failure by a nurse or other caretaker to provide adequate care which can lead to injuries and health problems
  • Sexual: Any form of non-consensual sexual contact

Physical Elder Abuse

Physical abuse is arguably the most dangerous type of elder abuse because seniors are so often frail and vulnerable. Physical elder abuse happens when intentional use of physical force causes injury, pain, or even death.

Physical elder abuse may include:

  • Burning
  • Hitting or slapping
  • Kicking
  • Pushing
  • Striking with objects
  • Using unnecessary physical or chemical restraints

Factors that can lead to physical elder abuse include stressful working conditions, caregiver burnout, and inadequate training on dealing with elder aggression. Working in a nursing home can be physically and emotionally demanding, and many staff members don’t receive the training and resources they need to handle the challenges of the job — while some are not appropriately vetted before being hired.

That said, there is no excuse for nursing home abuse, and abusers and the institutions that enable them should be held accountable.

Some red flags that physical elder abuse may be occurring are:

  • Abrasions
  • Broken bones
  • Burn marks
  • Unexplained bruises

Abuse victims may also become withdrawn and stop participating in activities. Physical elder abuse can result in lasting psychological damage, such as suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety.

If you suspect you or your loved one has been a victim of physical elder abuse, call Sokolove Law today at (800) 995-1212, or use this form to request a free, no-obligation consultation. It costs nothing up front to hire us, and we accept a fee only if your case results in compensation.

Sokolove Law’s skilled attorneys have extensive experience with these types of lawsuits. Over the past 45+ years, we’ve recovered more than $273 Million for victims of elder abuse and their families.

Elder Sexual Abuse

Elder sexual abuse includes non-consensual sexual contact of any kind. It includes explicit sexual acts and any other unwelcome sexual activity.

Nursing home residents are at a higher risk for elder sexual abuse because they are more likely to have some form of cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease. This creates situations in which the older adult is unable to give consent or defend themselves against an abuser's unwanted sexual advances.

Knowing the signs of elder sexual abuse is critical to prevention. They include:

  • Any report of sexual assault, even by those with cognitive impairment
  • Bleeding in the genital area
  • Bruising on the genital area, breasts, or inner thighs
  • Torn or bloody clothing/sheets
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

In addition to the physical trauma caused by sexual elder abuse, mental health problems are also likely to occur. According to the NIH, 11 out of 20 nursing home patients died within a year after elder sexual abuse.

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Elder Abuse and Neglect

Neglect occurs when an older adult is not adequately cared for by someone responsible for their well-being, such as a long-term care facility staff member.

Some warning signs of elder neglect include:

  • Bedsores
  • Malnutrition
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sudden changes in emotional health
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Unsanitary living conditions

Elder neglect is especially prevalent in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), about 95% of nursing home residents have been neglected or witnessed neglect.

Nursing home neglect typically takes one of four forms:

  1. Medical Neglect: Medical concerns that are not responded or tended to
  2. Neglect of Basic Needs: Inadequate levels of food, water, or safety
  3. Neglect of Personal Hygiene: Failure to help with bathing, laundry, or oral care
  4. Social or Emotional Neglect: Ignoring or otherwise failing to provide emotional care

These forms of neglect may lead to major health problems and even death. The main causes of elder neglect in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities include understaffing, inadequate training, and negligent hiring. These facilities must put patient care and safety above all else and poor management must be held accountable when abuse occurs.

Emotional Elder Abuse

Emotional elder abuse, also known as psychological abuse, can be verbal or nonverbal. Both types of elder abuse can cause severe psychological pain and suffering to the older adult.

Verbal elder abuse may include:

  • Causing shame or embarrassment
  • Insulting or ridiculing
  • Intimidating or threatening harm
  • Swearing
  • Yelling

Nonverbal emotional elder abuse may include actions such as ignoring or isolating the older adult, limiting access to their necessities, or hiding their personal belongings.

Sadly, emotional elder abuse is especially common in nursing homes, where staff is entrusted to properly care for residents, and family members are not always there to supervise. In a study by the National Institutes of Health, 81% of nursing home staff reported witnessing emotional abuse and 40% of staff admitted to emotionally abusing an older adult.

Emotional abuse often is a precursor to other forms of abuse that may result in injury or death. If your loved one was injured or died due to abuse in a nursing home, contact Sokolove Law now.

Elder Financial Abuse

Another precursor of physical abuse is elder financial abuse, also called financial exploitation, which occurs when older adults are deprived or conned out of their own resources. This can include money, property, Social Security benefits, and other assets. The abuse often happens when the perpetrator claims to have permission to act on the senior’s behalf.

While Sokolove Law is not filing financial elder abuse lawsuits at this time, it’s often an important warning sign of other types of abuse. If a loved one has been physically or sexually abused, or neglected to the point of serious physical harm or death, we may be able to help you pursue compensation. Contact us for a free case review to learn more.

Elder Abuse Cases

In addition to contacting authorities, Adult Protective Services (APS), and an ombudsman, elder abuse in nursing homes may be addressed through a nursing home lawsuit. Filing a nursing home lawsuit can help in two ways: preventing further abuse from happening and holding those responsible accountable by pursuing compensation for past abuse. No amount of money can take away the pain of elder abuse, but taking legal action may be helpful in coming to terms with what happened and may help with healing.

If compensation is awarded in a nursing home abuse lawsuit, it can help victims pay for:

  • The cost of changing nursing homes or hiring new caregivers
  • Medical bills
  • Mental health counseling
  • Physical therapy
  • Other expenses

Many nursing home lawsuits are settled out of court between the lawyers of the victim and the lawyers of the nursing home or its insurance company.

At Sokolove Law, elder abuse lawsuits are handled on a contingency-fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless the case is successful.

Nursing home abuse lawsuits generally include the following steps:

  • Pleadings: Each party provides their own detailed account of the events to the court.
  • Discovery: Each party collects evidence to build their case.
  • Trial: If a nursing home settlement cannot be negotiated, the case goes to trial for a judge or jury verdict.
  • Appeal: If either party does not agree with the verdict, they can ask the court to change its decision.

Successful nursing home lawsuits can offer abuse victims and their families the compensation they deserve. These lawsuits also hold nursing homes accountable for their mistreatment, obtaining justice for victims and discouraging future abuse.

Working with a dedicated nursing home abuse lawyer is highly recommended if you wish to pursue a lawsuit.

Get Help From an Elder Abuse Lawyer

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, the nursing home abuse lawyers at Sokolove Law may be able to help you pursue compensation.

We have decades of experience successfully fighting for victims of elder abuse. Sokolove Law has recovered over $273 Million for elders tragically abused and neglected in nursing homes.

As a national firm, we can file nursing home abuse and neglect cases in any state. We help our clients navigate the legal system so they can focus on what’s important — helping their loved one heal from neglect and abuse.

Get a free consultation today to learn more about your legal options. You can also call (800) 995-1212 to speak with a member of our team.

Elder Abuse FAQs

What is considered elder abuse?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Help keep your loved ones safe by downloading our free guide to learn how to recognize the signs of elder abuse.

What is the most common type of elder abuse?

Researchers for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) have found financial elder abuse to be the most commonly reported form of elder abuse. That said, many instances of elder abuse go unreported, including physical and sexual abuse. If a loved one has been physically or sexually abused by nursing home staff, or neglected to the point of physical injury or death, contact us for a free consultation to see how you can hold the abusers accountable.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: November 2, 2021

  1. American Psychological Association. 2008. "Elder Abuse." Retrieved August 22, 2021 from https://www.apa.org/pi/prevent-violence/resources/elder-abuse
  2. BioMed Central (BMC) Health Services Research. 2020. "Elder Abuse and Neglect: An Overlooked Patient Safety Issue. A Focus Group Study Of Nursing Home Leaders’ Perceptions of Elder Abuse and Neglect." Retrieved August 22, 2021 from https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-020-5047-4
  3. Hawes, Catherine. 2003. "Elder abuse in residential long-term care settings: What is known and what information is needed? National Research Council (US) Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect." Retrieved August 22, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK98786/
  4. Human Rights Watch. 2021. "US: Concerns Of Neglect in Nursing Homes." Retrieved August 22, 2021 from https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/25/us-concerns-neglect-nursing-homes
  5. National Center on Elder Abuse. "Research, Statistics, and Data." Retrieved August 23, 2021 from https://ncea.acl.gov/What-We-Do/Research/Statistics-and-Data.aspx
  6. National Council on Aging. 2021. "Get the Facts on Elder Abuse." Retrieved August 23, 2021 from https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse
  7. National Institute of Justice. 2013. "Financial Exploitation of the Elderly." Retrieved August 22, 2021 from https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/financial-exploitation-elderly
  8. World Health Organization (WHO). 2021. "Elder Abuse." Retrieved August 22, 2021 from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse