$3,100,000Pressure sore death
$2,333,000Fall involving traumatic brain injury
$1,500,000Bedsore settlement
$1,499,000Dementia patient injury
$1,250,000Repeated fall injuries

Types of Elder Abuse


Abuse of the elderly is an escalating problem in the United States that can occur in numerous settings, from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to private homes. Types of elder abuse include physical, sexual, financial, psychological, and emotional abuse.

Often the abuse occurs by those most trusted by the elderly, such as family members and caregivers, nurses, and nurse aids. The situation often worsens when the older adult suffers mental impairment. Elder neglect is also common abuse that can result in severe injury and even death.

The personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC advocate for every older person harmed by physical, financial, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect. Contact our nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

Elder Abuse Statistics and Facts

The various types of elder abuse are a serious and growing problem, affecting millions of seniors annually. The statistics on elder mistreatment from multiple agencies and organizations include the following:

  • World Health Organization (WHO) – an estimated one in six older people experiences one or more types of elder abuse. In high-income countries, up to 10% of elderly individuals experience one or more types of elder abuse.
  • National Center on Law and Elder Rights – in 2020, more than 1,000 requests for legal assistance related to the various types of elder abuse and neglect were logged.
  • National Center on Elder Abuse – seven elder abuse types have been identified, abandonment, neglect, emotional abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, self-neglect and sexual abuse.
  • Local Adult Protective Services – in 2019, more than 300,000 reports of one or other type of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in the United States was received. These reports represent only a fraction of the actual cases of elder abuse, as many do not report elder abuse cases.
  • National Council on Aging – a survey of the elderly found that one in ten respondents reported experiencing a type of elder or nursing home abuse in the past year. Financial abuse was found to be the most commonly reported type of elder abuse in the survey.
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – a nursing home residents study found that more than one in four residents stated that they experienced at least one instance of physical abuse, verbal abuse, or other forms of mistreatment in one year. More than 40% of nursing home residents reported having experienced nursing home abuse or neglect.
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – an estimated one in ten older adults experience a type of elder or nursing home abuse each year.

Any of these elder abuse types can have a devastating effect on older adults and their families, and families must recognize the signs of suspected abuse to protect loved ones from further harm.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is an intentional act by a caregiver or other trusted individual that causes harm or creates a serious risk of harm to the elderly. There are several types of elder abuse that residents suffer.

Physical Elder Abuse

Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force against an older person, resulting in physical pain, injury, or impairment, and can include:

  • Hitting, slapping, pushing, or shaking an older adult leading to bruises, cuts, broken bones, or other physical injuries.
  • Inappropriate use of physical restraints, confinement to a room or bed, or the use of drugs to control or restrain an older individual.
  • Forcing an older individual to stay in uncomfortable positions, such as sitting in a chair for long periods, causes physical pain or discomfort.
  • Withholding food, water, or medical aids, such as medication or medical devices, causing an elderly person to suffer malnutrition or other physical abuse.
  • Improper physical care, such as failing to help an elderly person maintain personal grooming, leading to skin irritation and infections.
  • Over-medicating an elderly person causing drowsiness or other physical harm.
  • Forcing an older person to perform strenuous physical activities or activities against their will.
  • Using physical force to prevent an elderly person from leaving their home or another place of residence.
  • Exposing an older individual to hazardous conditions or neglecting to provide necessary safety measures, such as handrails or non-slip mats in the bathroom or stairways.

Signs of Physical Elder Abuse

Signs of physical abuse may include unexplained bruises or injuries, broken bones, sprains, or dislocations, and evidence of using restraints or drugs.

Other signs of physical abuse can include poor personal hygiene, untreated medical conditions, or an elder’s refusal to speak or interact with a specific caregiver.

Elder Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person, such as:

  • Non-consensual sexual contact with an older person, including unwanted touching, sexual assault, or rape
  • Forcing an elderly individual to view or participate in sexually explicit photography or videography and perform sexual acts constitutes sexual abuse
  • Sexually explicit photographing or videos of an older person without their consent is also considered sexual abuse
  • Coercing an older individual into sexual activities by threatening them with physical harm, loss of financial support, or other consequences

Signs of Sexual Elder Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse can include the following:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases, infections or other genital injuries with no medical explanation
  • Bruising or other injuries to the genital area of older adults
  • Bloody or torn underclothing is a sign of elder sexual abuse
  • Reluctance of an older person to be alone with a specific nursing home caregiver or staff member and being uncomfortable around them
  • Sudden changes in behavior or mood, such as becoming withdrawn, anxious, or depressed

Emotional Elder Abuse

Emotional abuse can cause mental pain, distress, or anguish, including verbal and non-verbal actions. Emotional or psychological abuse can severely affect an older person’s health, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

Emotional or psychological abuse of the elderly might include:

  • Verbal assaults – yelling, swearing, insults, or derogatory language
  • Threats or intimidation – threatening to harm, withhold care, or force them to move out of their home
  • Humiliation – belittling, insulting their intelligence, or making fun of their appearance
  • Isolation – withholding visitation with friends and family or controlling their access to phones or the internet, confining the elderly to a specific area or preventing them from leaving their home or room
  • Manipulation – staff ignoring or refusing to speak to them, withholding affection or emotional support
  • Bullying – staff being overly controlling or demanding, blaming the older person for things that are not their fault, falsely accusing them of wrongdoing,

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Signs of emotional or psychological abuse can include an elder’s sudden changes in behavior or mood, such as becoming withdrawn, anxious, or depressed.

Other signs of emotional elder abuse may include a caregiver’s refusal to allow the elder to speak to or see other family members or a sudden loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

Elder Financial Abuse

Financial elder abuse is a type of elder abuse where there is unauthorized use of an older person’s funds, credit cards, real or private property, or assets. Financial elder abuse can include:

  • Money or property that is stolen
  • Coercion to give away money or property or signing over of property or assets
  • Misusing a power of attorney to control finances
  • Forging signatures or altering legal documents, such as wills or trusts
  • Using credit cards or bank accounts without permission
  • Pressure to invest in a fraudulent scheme or to buy unnecessary goods or services
  • Taking advantage of confusion or cognitive decline of an older person to obtain access to their finances
  • Threatening an older adult with physical harm, loss of financial support, or other consequences to obtain access to their finances
  • Failing to provide them with necessary care or services in exchange for payment

Signs of Financial Abuse

Signs of financial abuse can include sudden changes in an elder’s financial situation, such as unpaid bills or missing funds. Other financial exploitation signs can include changes to legal documents, such as a will or a power of attorney, or the sudden appearance of a new friend or family member who is overly interested in the elder’s finances.

Elder Self-Neglect

Elder self-neglect is when a mentally competent older person fails to care for their basic needs, including physical, medical, and hygiene. Recognizing self-neglect signs can allow quick action to remedy the situation if an older adult is seen to be at risk.

Warning Signs of Elder Self-Neglect

When self-neglect is suspected, assistance should be requested from the Adult Protective Services or other community resources to ensure their safety and well-being.

Signs of self-neglect can include the following:

  • Lack of appropriate clothing or other basic necessities
  • Financial mismanagement
  • Refusal of medical care or social services
  • Social isolation or self-imposed confinement
  • Poor personal grooming, including dirty or disheveled clothing, uncombed hair, and body odor

Risk Factors for Elder Abuse

Vulnerable older individuals are more prone to types of elder abuse, and certain factors can increase the risk.

Types of Elder Abuse Risk Factors

  • Cognitive impairment, including dementia or other forms of memory loss, may make an older adult more vulnerable to abuse and less able to recognize or report abuse.
  • Social isolation or loneliness may make an older adult more vulnerable to abuse and less likely to have access to support or help.
  • Dependence on a caregiver may create a power imbalance and make an older adult more susceptible to abuse or exploitation.
  • Chronic illness or disability may make older adults more vulnerable to abuse and less able to protect themselves.
  • Substance abuse or mental health issues may put an older adult at risk of abuse or exploitation.
  • History of family violence or domestic abuse can increase the likelihood of elder abuse.
  • Financial dependence on a caregiver or family member may expose the individual to financial exploitation or abuse risk.
  • Poor physical health or frailty may make an older adult more vulnerable to physical abuse or neglect.
  • Low income or limited financial resources may increase the risk of financial abuse or exploitation.

By recognizing the risk factors for the different types of elder abuse, preventative steps can be taken, and the well-being and dignity of older adults in communities can be protected.

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse or Nursing Home Abuse

The distinct types of elder abuse can be challenging to recognize, but there are common warning signs of elderly abuse to look out for, such as the following:

  • Unexplained physical injuries, such as bruises, broken bones, or burns.
  • Lack of personal hygiene, including unwashed hair, dirty clothing, and a strong body odor.
  • Signs of malnutrition or dehydration, including rapid weight loss, confusion, or weakness.
  • Unusual changes in behavior or mood, such as becoming withdrawn, anxious, or depressed.
  • Social isolation or reluctance to take part in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Signs of financial exploitation, including missing money or valuables, unpaid bills, or changes to legal documents.
  • Unexplained or sudden changes to an older adult’s will or estate planning documents.
  • Unexplained injuries to the genital area or sexually transmitted infections.
  • Verbal or emotional abuse, including threats, insults, or yelling.

Psychological Abuse and Elder Neglect

Neglect is a common type of elder abuse in nursing homes and can have severe psychological consequences for older adults. Neglect can take many forms and often results in feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair.

Staff negligence can include health and medical needs, such as untreated medical conditions or medication mismanagement, malnutrition or dehydration, leading to rapid weight loss, confusion, or weakness and unsafe living conditions, including no heat, electricity, running water, and a cluttered or pest-infested home.

Risk Factors of Elder Neglect

It’s essential to recognize the psychological impact of neglect on nursing home residents and take steps to prevent it. Risk factors include:

  • Understaffing and lacking resources may make it difficult for nursing home staff to supply adequate care and attention to all residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Poor training or supervision of nursing home staff may lead to mistakes, neglect, or abuse.
  • Nursing home staff burnout or turnover may lead to a decline in the quality of care provided to disabled and elderly residents.
  • Residents with cognitive impairments or communication difficulties may be less able to advocate for their needs and more vulnerable to neglect or abuse.
  • Nursing home patients with chronic health conditions or mobility issues may require more intensive care and assistance and may be more vulnerable to neglect.

Providing adequate staffing and resources, training and supervising nursing home staff, and ensuring that residents receive the care and attention they need can prevent the psychological abuse of neglect in nursing homes.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to Resolve an Elder Abuse Compensation Claim

If you or a loved one has experienced a type of elder abuse, it is essential to take action to protect your rights and seek compensation for your injuries. A personal injury lawyer specializing in elderly abuse cases can assist you with your claim.

Contact the personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC at (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options. We work on a contingency fee basis and only get paid if you win your case.

With extensive experience representing victims of one or more types of elder abuse, we are committed to helping our clients obtain the compensation they deserve.


Emotional Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse Prevention

Financial Elder Abuse

Physical Elder Abuse

Sexual Abuse of Elderly

Client Reviews

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was...

- Lisa

After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit...

- Eric