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What is the Difference Between Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes?

By Lisa LeeJune 26, 2024No Comments

Many seniors in the U.S. experience some form of abuse while they are residing in a nursing home. And many cases are unreported. Although neglect is considered a form of abuse, it is also considered a separate type of injury entirely. The distinction is minimal when it comes to ensuring safety for nursing home residents: Either way, you will want to get help for your loved one. However, it is important to recognize the differences and to get clarification on what is truly happening to them in their nursing home. Read on to learn the difference between abuse and neglect.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

The federal government considers abuse “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinements, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.” Nursing home abuse includes several types, including the following:

  • Physical Abuse: This is the intentional act of causing bodily harm or trauma and can include slapping, hitting, kicking, pushing and shoving, and inappropriate use of restraints.
  • Sexual Abuse: This is intentional abuse that violates a resident with an unwanted sexual component and can include any unwelcome touching, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and taking explicit photos or videos.
  • Financial Abuse: This form of abuse involves intentional exploitation and manipulation of the resident for financial gain and can include obtaining unauthorized use of their credit cards or befriending them to gain access to their money or accounts.
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse: This is abuse carried out with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, and mental trauma, including name-calling, threats, and exerting control over residents such as limiting their use of resources.

What is Nursing Home Neglect?

The federal government defines neglect as “failure to provide services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.” If you think of abuse as being active, you can think of neglect as inactive; if you think of “abuse” as intentional, you can think of “neglect” as either intentional or unintentional. It occurs when nursing home staff doesn’t attend to the residents’ needs, to their detriment. Examples of neglect include the following:

  • Neglect of Medical Well-Being: Improperly administering medications or forgetting to provide them or not reporting residents’ injuries.
  • Neglect of Basic Needs: Failing to provide life necessaries such as adequate food and water.
  • Neglect of Social and Emotional Needs: Dismissing or ignoring the residents’ complaints.
  • Neglect of Personal Hygiene: Allowing a resident to remain uncleaned in their own waste or failing to provide regular baths. 

Who Commits Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

In addition to understanding the differences between abuse and neglect, it’s also helpful to identify the perpetrators of these offenses. Although other residents and even family members or friends can commit abuse, the vast majority of offenders are the ones that spend the most time with the residents – the nursing home staff, which primarily includes the caregivers, aides, and nursing staff. However, the administrative staff may also do this because they are in a unique position to commit financial abuse or they can commit emotional abuse by withholding information from relatives, for example. Additionally, they can also be held liable for the nursing staff’s abuse, especially if they are negligent.

Talk to an Experienced Attorney about Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

When seniors transition from their homes into nursing homes, they should expect differences and certain challenges. One thing that they shouldn’t have to deal with is abuse. If your loved one has been neglected or abused in their nursing home, you must take action immediately to protect them. After you’ve contacted the authorities, get in touch with an expert in nursing home law who will work to ensure that the nursing home is held accountable. A Walton Law attorney is here for you when you need them and can help you navigate the complexities of the law. Contact us today to get started.