What Is Elder Abuse?

The Nursing Home Reform Act was enacted in 1987. According to it, elderly people in nursing homes are entitled to certain legal rights. These include the right to:

  •  freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
  • accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
  • exercise self-determination
  • communicate freely
  • be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility

Overall, elderly people should be treated by facility employees with a reasonable standard of care. However, their rights and autonomy are not always respected. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that around 1 million Americans over the age of 65 have been abused by a loved one or caregiver. Abuse might be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. However, abuse can also be a result of negligence.

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is the “willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish or deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.”

In some cases, it is the result of malicious intentions, but it can also result from a care facility’s inadequate or negligent actions, such as understaffing, inadequate training, a breach of obligation, or improper administration or handling of medications.

Common injuries that result from neglect include injuries from falls (like head injuries, broken bones, or bruises), bedsores (which develop when a person remains in one position for a long period of time, putting prolonged pressure on their skin) and overdoses from the improper handling of medication. In cases of neglect, a person in a care facility might suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, or an untreated infection.

How to spot abuse

The warning signs of elder abuse and neglect vary depending on the type of abuse, but might include:

  • unexplained injuries (physical abuse)
  • unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or genital trauma (sexual abuse)
  • emotional changes or isolation (emotional abuse)
  • changes in financial matters due to financial exploitation (financial abuse)

When someone is a victim of neglect, warnings signs might be:

  • deteriorating personal hygiene
  • unsanitary living space
  • evidence of improperly administered medication
  • dirty bedding
  • lack of basic necessities, like food, water, or heat.

On the other hand, some injuries might be the result of third party involvement or an equipment malfunction. Injuries can also occur from the improper design of medical equipment, like wheelchairs, faulty medications, or the negligence of an outside party, like a sanitation or security company. In these cases, you should still inform the care facility of the problem, and make sure any complaints are properly addressed.

What to do

Contact the Adult Protective Services, or call an elder abuse reporting hotline. You may also consider seeking the help of an attorney, who can assist you in investigating the abuse and working through your legal options. People in nursing homes have a right to freedom from abuse and neglect — don’t let someone take that away from them!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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