What Are the Different Types of Nursing Home and Elder Abuse?

by Aaron Gartlan

May 5, 2021 | Nursing Home Neglect

As the population of older adults grows in the United States, so does the problem of elder abuse. According to the National Council on Aging, one in ten elderly Americans aged 60 and above has experienced some form of abuse.

Unfortunately, many instances of abuse go unreported. In fact, only one in every 24 cases is documented. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect. There are six types of abuse that are most prevalent in nursing homes: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

If you suspect that your loved one has suffered abuse in an Alabama nursing home, an experienced nursing home lawyer can help you protect your loved one and hold the nursing home accountable. Our knowledgeable legal team at Gartlan Injury Law will stand by you through every step.

Our legal advocacy on behalf of clients has been recognized by a number of organizations, such as The National Trial Lawyers and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. We also hold an Avvo 10.0 Superb rating for our commitment to service.

Call Gartlan Injury Law in Dothan, Alabama, or contact us online today. We are ready to discuss your case free of charge. We are available to answer your questions and discuss your legal options.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves intentionally causing physical harm to someone. Abuse of this nature may include slapping, hitting, kicking, and even pushing. When an elderly person is physically abused, the resulting injuries can be severe or even fatal. In addition, physical abuse may also include using improper restraints on a nursing home patient, improperly administering drugs as chemical restraints, and force-feeding them.

Evidence of physical abuse may include:

  • Bruises or black eyes
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Restraint marks or bruises to the ankles, wrists, or neck
  • Sprains or dislocated joints
  • Scratches or cuts
  • Broken teeth

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the intentional infliction of emotional, mental, and psychological distress on someone through actions or words. In nursing homes, this may include threats, harassment, name-calling, taunts, humiliation, terrorizing, exerting control by limiting privileges, and isolating the victim from other residents and family.

Emotional abuse can be extremely harmful to an elderly person and result in deep, long-term psychological scars that can adversely affect the life of the resident. Signs of emotional abuse in an elder may include:

  • Appearing depressed or withdrawn
  • Appearing to be agitated, anxious, or upset
  • Attempts to hurt self or others
  • Social withdrawal
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • An extreme change in weight
  • Suffering from lack of sleep
  • Not communicating freely
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is a sexual interaction forced upon someone against their will. It may include lewd touching, groping, oral copulation, and intercourse. Sexual abuse can cause long-term psychological and emotional damage as well as physical injury. In many cases, the abuse occurs when the victim is incapacitated and unable to give consent. Signs of sexual abuse in a nursing home patient may include:

  • Bruises or scratches
  • Injuries around the genitals
  • Bleeding in the anal or genital area
  • Pelvic injuries
  • Contracting a sexually transmitted disease
  • Appearing withdrawn
  • Appearing anxious and fearful

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse involves the misappropriation of someone’s financial resources for unauthorized uses. Because nursing home staff are in a position of trust, elderly residents are especially vulnerable to financial abuse. Unexplained withdrawals from an elderly person’s savings account or the addition of a nursing home staff member’s name on the patient’s accounts may be signs of financial abuse. Some of the ways that financial exploitation can occur include:

  • Stealing the elderly resident’s financial information
  • Illegally withdrawing money from the resident’s bank account
  • Forging signatures on financial or legal documents, such as checks, wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Taking control of the resident’s money


Neglect in a nursing home occurs when the nursing home staff or administration fails to provide the necessary care and services to an elderly resident to keep the resident healthy and safe. This may involve either passive neglect or active neglect.

When passive neglect happens, it is usually due to inadequate staffing or poor staff training. Some examples of passive neglect are failing to change the bedding regularly or reposition a patient to prevent the development of bedsores. If necessary care is intentionally withheld, that constitutes active neglect. Examples of active neglect include the delaying of administration of medication or ignoring residents who are asking for assistance.

Signs of neglect may include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Soiled linen or clothes
  • Infections
  • Open sores
  • Poor hygiene


Abandonment occurs when a person who is in charge of someone’s care shirks that responsibility. Unfortunately, when it occurs in a nursing home, the elder’s health, welfare, and safety are placed at risk. Signs that an elder was abandoned include:

  • Malnourishment
  • Dehydration
  • Poor hygiene
  • Soiled linen or clothes
  • Open sores

How Do You Know When You Need Legal Help to Protect Your Elderly Loved One?

Elder abuse in Alabama nursing homes is not always easy to recognize. Many cases go unreported because the residents themselves are afraid to say anything out of fear of retribution or may be incapable of reporting the abuse. When you do see the warning signs and suspect elder abuse, there are steps you can take to protect your loved one’s safety and rights:

  • Report your concerns to the nursing home management.
  • Seek immediate medical treatment for your family member.
  • Report the suspected abuse to Alabama Adult Protective Services.
  • Consult with an attorney who is experienced in elder abuse to discuss your legal options.

If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of elder abuse at a nursing home, contact our compassionate and skilled Alabama nursing home legal team at Gartlan Injury Law. We understand what you are going through and will help guide you during this difficult time. For a free, no-obligation case review, call us or contact us online today. We are ready to help.


Aaron Gartlan is a graduate of Troy University and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law who focuses his practice exclusively on representing those injured by the wrongdoing of others. He is member of the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal practice, Aaron teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor at Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business and serves as a field artillery sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.

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