The last thing caregivers of an elder want to consider is the likelihood of their beloved family member or friend being abused while in the care of a nursing home. However, the statistics are not encouraging. On a staffing level, a 2012 survey by the National Council on Elder Abuse reported that more than 50 percent of nursing home staff committed physical or emotional abuse or neglect.

Overall, more than two million cases of elder abuse are reported every year. Statistically, almost one out of every ten elderly individuals will experience some form of elder abuse. Sadly, these numbers are likely severely under representative of the actual number of abuse cases, since the overwhelming majority remain unreported. Unfortunately, the data suggests that nursing home abuse is common among elders in nursing homes.

With an ever-increasing rate of elderly in the United States, the potential for future elder abuse is concerning. Without significant change, the elder abuse statistics will continue to rise with the growth of the elderly population.

What many don’t realize is that elder abuse is not limited to physical violence and neglect. Additionally, it can include verbal and emotional abuse, financial abuse or exploitation, and sexual abuse. In a high percentage of cases of financial abuse, many elders are not aware that it is happening.

Especially susceptible to elder abuse are residents who are unable to communicate effectively due to physical or mental infirmities. Even those who are able to communicate often choose not to in fear of retaliation from staff members if they report incidents of abuse or neglect, or suspected abuse or neglect.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation of an elder occurs when another party fraudulently uses or takes the victim’s financial assets or possessions.

Warning signs include mission valuables, missing checks, or missing credit cards. Unexplained new accounts or charges and low account balances are also signs of something amiss.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when another party forces the elder adult to engage in sexual contact without their consent. This may also involve forcing the victim to view sexually explicit contact as well as someone exposing themselves to the victim.

Warning signs include unexplained pain or bruising in the groin area or recurring urinary tract infections.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse in elders occurs when another person intentionally inflicts pain or harm.

Warning signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, fractures, cuts, etc. Nursing homes will often attribute the injuries to a fall or general clumsiness.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when another party intentionally inflicts emotional pain and suffering on an elder.

Warning signs include sudden, unexplained personality changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, or fearfulness.


Elder neglect occurs when the victim fails to receive necessary medical treatment or basic life necessities. This can include failure to diagnose or treat an illness or another medical condition, or the failure to provide food, water, safety, comfort, or personal care.

Warning signs of neglect come in the form of malnourishment, dehydration, or an overall lack of cleanliness.