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Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

Nursing home abuse is a particularly troublesome issue to solve as it typically goes on behind closed doors; victims may be unable or afraid to report the abuse.

If you suspect that a loved one or an elder to whom you provide care is experiencing nursing home abuse, you must report it. But how can you tell if what you have witnessed or experienced is nursing home abuse? In this collection of nursing home abuse statistics, you will learn how often it occurs, who is most affected, what it may look like, and more.

If at any point you would like to speak with or ask questions of a nursing home abuse expert, contact 1-800-516-4783 for a free consultation.

Currently, over 15% of the American population is 65 or older, and approximately 12% are aged 85 or above. Between 2010 and 2050, the United States is projected to experience rapid growth in its older population. In 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to be 88.5 million.[1]

What Do Nursing Home Abuse Statistics Tell Us About How Common It Is?

There are several challenges in researching elder abuse. Researchers have used different types of data and definitions of abuse, making it difficult to measure and compare nursing home abuse across cities, counties, and states. Furthermore, nursing home abuse can be difficult to identify. Victims may be mentally and physically vulnerable; they may have a legitimate fear of social, legal, financial, or physical repercussions for reporting.

While any one source provides only a small glimpse into the issue, taken together this collection of nursing home abuse statistics can help you understand the bigger picture. 

Verbal Mistreatment the Most Common Type of Nursing Home Abuse

Approximately 10% of elders experience mistreatment including physical abuse, psychological or verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect. The most frequent type of abuse reported was verbal abuse (9%), followed by financial abuse (3.5%), and physical abuse (less than 1%).[2]

Nursing Home Abuse is Underreported

There is an identified trend in Adult Protective Services data that shows an increase in the rate of elder abuse reporting.[3] However, it is still massively underreported. In the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, researchers discovered that for every elder abuse case known to programs and agencies, 24 were unknown.[4]

If you suspect a case of nursing home abuse, immediately contact 1-800-516-4783 to learn more about how you can help.

Who Is Most at Risk of Nursing Home Abuse?

As of 2014, approximately 1.4 million Americans resided in nursing homes and another 835,200 in residential care communities.[5]

Dementia is a major risk factor for nursing home abuse. A 2009 American Society on Aging study revealed that close to 50% of people with dementia experience some kind of abuse. However, several other factors can put a nursing home resident at risk of abuse.

Women with Disabilities Face Greater Risk of Nursing Home Abuse

Institutionalized adult women with disabilities report a 33% prevalence of having experienced interpersonal violence versus 21% for institutionalized adult women without disabilities.[6] In one sample of sexually assaulted women age 55 and over, 33% of the women had physical disabilities, and 52% had a psychiatric diagnosis.[7]

The Elderly May Be Safer with a Spouse

Those who live with more household members are at increased risk of abuse (especially financial abuse), compared to elderly persons who live with their spouse alone.[8]

Poverty and Lack of Social Supports Are Nursing Home Abuse Risk Factors

Low income and poverty are considered contextual or situational stressors that contribute to an elderly person’s risk of abuse.[9] According to researchers, low social support also significantly increases the risk of virtually all forms of mistreatment.[10]

The following factors have also been found to increase the risk of financial abuse.[11]

  • Non-use of social services
  • Need for ADL assistance
  • Poor self-rated health
  • No spouse/partner
  • African-American race
  • Lower age

You can help protect those at greatest risk of nursing home abuse by being an involved family member or caregiver. Be vigilant and report any suspected abuse immediately. Call 1-800-516-4783 to get help today.

How to Recognize Nursing Home Abuse

Would you know nursing home abuse if you witnessed or experienced it? It is critical that elder abuse is caught and reported quickly, especially considering that those who suffer even modest abuse have a 300% higher risk of death.[12]

Injuries caused by elder abuse are estimated to cost more than $5.3 billion in health expenditures across the US each year.[13]

Common Injuries in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

The most commonly documented physical impacts of elder abuse[14],[15],[16]  include:

  • welts and wounds
  • bruises
  • lacerations
  • dental problems
  • head injuries
  • broken bones
  • pressure sores
  • persistent physical pain and soreness
  • malnutrition
  • dehydration
  • sleep disturbances
  • increased susceptibility to illness (including sexually transmitted disease)
  • worsening pre-existing health conditions
  • increased risk for premature death

Be Alert for Mental Health Indicators of Potential Nursing Home Abuse

The psychological impacts of nursing home abuse can include levels of psychological distress, emotional symptoms, and depression higher than those observed among elders who have not experienced abuse. Among older women, verbal abuse is particularly harmful and has been shown to cause greater declines in mental health than physical abuse alone.[17]

How to Help a Nursing Home Abuse Victim

A free consultation can help nursing home abuse victims get to safety, understand their legal rights, and pursue justice from those who commit these most heinous of offenses against society’s most vulnerable. Call 1-800-516-4783 to schedule yours.


[1] U.S. Census Bureau, 2001; 2010, U.S. Census Bureau, 2011; 2020 to 2050, U.S. Census Bureau, 2012a.

[2] Lachs, M., & Pillemer, K. (2015). Elder abuse. New England Journal of Medicine, 373, 1947–56. doi: 10.1056/NEJMra1404688.

[3] Quinn, K., & Benson, W. (2012). The states’ elder abuse victim services: a system in search of support. Generations 36(3), 66–71.

[4] Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc., Weill Cornell Medical Center of Cornell University, & New York City Department for the Aging. (2011). Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study (PDF).

[5] National Center for Health Statistics. (2014). Nursing Home Care; National Center for Health Statistics (2014). Residential Care Communities.

[6] Barrett, K. A., O’Day, B., Roche, A., & Carlson, B. L. (2009). Intimate partner violence, health status, and
health care access among women with disabilities. Women’s Health Issues, 19(2), 94-100.

[7] Eckert, L. & Sugar, N. (2008). Older victims of sexual assault: and underrecognized population. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 688e.1–7.

[8] Peterson, J., Burnes, D., Caccamise, P., Mason, A., Henderson, C., Wells, M., & Lachs, M. (2014). Financial exploitation of older adults: a population-based prevalence study. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 29(12), 1615–23.

[9] Friedman, B., Santos, E.J., Liebel, D.V., Russ, A.J., & Conwell, Y. (2015). Longitudinal prevalence and correlates of elder mistreatment among older adults receiving home visiting nursing. Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect 27(1), 34–64.

[10] Cooper, C & Livingston, G. (2016). Intervening to reduce elder abuse: challenges for research. Age and Ageing 45 (2), 184–185.

[11] Peterson, J., Burnes, D., Caccamise, P., Mason, A., Henderson, C., Wells, M., & Lachs, M. (2014). Financial exploitation of older adults: a population-based prevalence study. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 29(12), 1615–23.

[12] Dong, X, Simon, M., Mendes de Leon, C., Fulmer, T., Beck, T., Hebert, L. (2009). Elder self-neglect and abuse and mortality risk in a community-dwelling population. Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(5), 517–526.

[13] Dong, X.Q. (2005). Medical implications of elder abuse and neglect. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 21(2), 293–313.

[14] Anetzberger, G. (2004). The Clinical Management of Elder Abuse. New York, NY: Hawthorne Press.

[15] American Medical Association white paper on elderly health. (1990). Report of the Council on Scientific Affairs. Archives of Internal Medicine, 150, 2459–2472.

[16] Lachs, M.S., Williams, C.S., O’Brien, S., Pillemer, K.A., Charlson, M.E. (1998). The mortality of elder mistreatment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(5), 428–432.

[17] Fulmer, T., Rodgers, R. F., & Pelger, A. (2013). Verbal mistreatment of the elderly. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 26(4), 351–364; Mouton, C. P., Rodabough, R. J., Rovi, S. L. D., Robert, G., Brzyski, R. J., & Katerndahl, D. A. (2010). Psychosocial effects of physical and mental abuse in post-menopausal women. Annals of Family Medicine, 8, 206–213.

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