What are the most common types of elder abuse?

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Elder abuse can occur in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, as well as in a home setting. Perpetrators may be professional caregivers but are often family members or trusted friends. Types of elder abuse

Abuse can take many forms and may progress in severity over time.

Neglect Is Elder Abuse

Failing to perform basic caretaking duties for an elderly person constitutes neglect. Examples of neglect may include:

  • Not administering necessary medication or failing to seek medical care for an injury or illness
  • Failing to provide appropriate meals
  • Not supervising the mealtimes of a person prone to choking
  • Allowing an elderly person to sit in a wet or soiled diaper for hours on end
  • Not taking reasonable precautions to prevent falls or wandering into unsafe areas
  • Attempting to punish the elderly person for bad behavior by withholding food, water, medicine, or other forms of essential care

Neglect can be either passive or active. Passive neglect refers to being unaware or in denial about an elder's caregiving requirements. This form of neglect is most commonly seen in family caregivers who may not fully understand an elderly person's limitations. Active neglect refers to willful deprivation of necessary care.

Emotional Abuse To Nursing Home Residents 

Emotional abuse refers to a pattern of behavior designed to make an elderly person feel isolated, alone, and afraid. Examples of emotional abuse may include:

  • Yelling
  • Making threats
  • Blaming or scapegoating
  • Humiliating or publicly shaming
  • Ignoring
  • Restricting visits from family and friends

An elderly person who is being emotionally abused may exhibit sudden changes in mood or behavior that indicate high levels of anxiety and depression. He may attempt to avoid the abuser but may also seem to withdraw from loved ones due to shame and embarrassment.

Emotional abuse is considered dangerous because it's often a warning sign that other inappropriate activities are taking place. For example, a caregiver who is emotionally abusing an elderly person due to frustration may eventually progress to physical abuse.

Physical Abuse In Nursing Homes

Physical abuse refers to any non-accidental use of physical force that causes pain and/or injury. For example:

  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Shoving
  • Using inappropriate restraints
  • Force feeding that leads to choking

Elderly people who are being physically abused are often too frightened to report the mistreatment. As such, any signs of bruises, cuts, or unexplained injuries should be thoroughly investigated.

Sexual Abuse In Nursing Homes

Sexual abuse of an elderly person includes any form of sexual activity that occurs when the person is forced or unable to provide consent. This includes:

  • Forced nudity
  • Sexual photography or filming
  • Touching or fondling
  • Kissing
  • Intercourse

Elderly women are significantly more likely than men to be victims of sexual abuse, with the risk increasing if the woman suffers from Alzheimer's or dementia.

Fraud and Financial Abuse In Nursing Homes

Fraud and financial abuse refers to behaviors that undermine an elderly person's sense of financial security. For example:

  • Misusing Social Security or other government benefits
  • Using the person's credit card or bank account without permission
  • Stealing household goods or necessary medication
  • Forging the person's signature on legal documents
  • Stealing the elder’s identity - identity theft
  • Participating in investment fraud
  • Soliciting donations to phony charities

Fraud and financial abuse is problematic because it often goes on for quite some time until the perpetrator is caught. Elderly people often lack the cognitive ability to actively manage their finances, which means they miss the early warning signs of this form of abuse. When the deception is discovered, it's often too late to fully recover the missing funds.

Receiving Compensation For Elder Abuse

Elder abuse cases can involve compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability and/or disfigurement
  • Violations of dignity
  • Funeral and burial costs

When the elderly person lacks the mental capacity to participate in legal action, a guardian ad litem (GAL) must be appointed. This is typically a spouse, adult child, or close family member but can be someone chosen by the court, if necessary.

In cases where the abuse has led to the elderly person's death, a surviving family member can initiate a wrongful death claim.

If you or a loved one have been abused in a nursing home you need to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule your free, no-obligation case review. 


William S. Neblett
Attorney William Neblett practices personal injury, maritme, medical malpractice and nursing home abuse law.