The 6 Main Causes of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

elder abuse in nursing homes

Elder abuse in nursing homes is often not taken seriously and considered no big deal. However, this is a huge mistake as 1 in 10 older adults in the US has experienced abuse.

The best way to prevent elder abuse in nursing homes is to determine what the causes are. Once you know the cause, you can take steps to resolve or prevent the cause.

If you suspect or discover that your loved one has suffered abuse you need to fight for them. Speaking with an attorney can help you determine you and your loved one’s rights.

1. Understaffing

The staff at a nursing home can only do so much work in a shift. That means you need to have the full amount of staff to be able to accomplish all of the required duties.

The population of those over the age of 65 and 85 is growing exponentially. This is placing a greater demand on nursing homes who have limited capacities.

When the staff drops below the needed amount, the responsibilities also start to get dropped. Standards also start to fall as less time gets allocated towards the duties that are getting done.

The staff gets forced to shift priorities as the workforce shrinks and there are fewer people to get everything done. Over time these neglected duties continue to be dropped and start to build on each other. This neglect can become so severe that it constitutes abuse.

This understaffing over a long period of time will also foster a hostile work environment. The staff will become frustrated which can lead to them to become bitter and disgruntled.

These employees are more likely to get hostile towards residents. This could be both verbal and physical hostility.

2. Lack of Experience and Training

Training is key to ensuring that the staff performs their duties to the highest of standards. How can you expect a staff to properly care for elderly residents if they don’t know how to?

Education and Degrees

The staff could not have the right educational background with accompanying degrees and certifications. The best staff will have received training in the areas that most commonly affect the elderly. This could be something like the best practices for caring for those with dementia.


The nursing home or facility needs to provide training on the facility policies. They should also hire people who have experience working in a nursing home or caring for the elderly.

This way they have a good understanding of the specific needs and requirements for caring for the elderly.

Continuing Education

It isn’t enough to have a degree and training. The staff should attend continuing education courses and seminars.

3. Underpayment

This problem isn’t just specific to nursing homes. No employee is going to perform their job to the highest degree if they are dissatisfied with their pay.

Nursing homes are privately run by companies. So, the pay rate can vary widely from one facility to another.

4. Lack of Accountability and Supervision

If the nursing home doesn’t have quality management, then there is no accountability for the staff. If the management doesn’t hold the staff to high levels of care, the staff is less likely to feel compelled to provide quality care.

Just like any organization, the management sets the tone for the rest of the company. So, if the management is poor and lacks standards, that attitude will spread throughout the staff.

5. Specific Problems with Individuals

Sometimes the facility is fantastic, the management is involved and trains their staff well. Everything about the facility provides quality care for their residents.

Except there is one rogue staff member who doesn’t get with the program. Unfortunately, these people are everywhere in society.

There is any number of reasons why these terrible people decide to commit elder abuse. It usually stems from their own problems and issues though.

The good news is that a quality management team will discover these people readily. Their actions will then get addressed and corrected or they will get let go.

6. Resident Risk Factors

This cause isn’t specifically a cause, but more factors that lead to others reacting negatively. Sometimes it is a specific trait about the resident that the staff reacts to in the wrong way.


Cognitive illnesses tend to lead to problems. These are illnesses like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Both of which create a barrier for the staff to communicate effectively with the resident.

This can lead to impatience and frustration within the staff. While they may have the best of intentions, their frustration could lead to abusive like behaviors.

Patient History

This isn’t necessarily abuse, but more the patient’s perceived abuse. Sometimes a patient’s own experiences and history may lead them to think the treatment they experience is abuse.

If you know your loved one has a mental illness or history of abuse, let the nursing home staff know. This can help you ensure that the staff adjusts their care.

Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

While most nursing homes and their staff strive to provide the highest level of care, there are the cases where this is not the case. The best thing you can do is stay active in your loved one’s care.

This way you can keep an eye out for these signs of elder abuse in the nursing home. Take a minute to have a chat with those that work at the facility.

You’ll get a feel for their attitude and energy. This will help you determine how the facility is run, the environment, and the level of job satisfaction of the staff.

Stick around and watch how the staff interacts with the residents. This will help you see their approach and attitude towards the residents.

Ask the management about their hiring practices, home policies, and continuing education requirements and efforts. This will help you determine how well the facility is run.

Elder abuse in nursing homes should not happen. By staying vigilant you can catch the signs and stop it.

Make sure you ask these 10 questions when looking for an attorney for your elder abuse case.

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