Nursing Home Abuse - A Growing Problem for an Aging Population

North Carolina like other states is undergoing a significant demographic change as the state’s 2.4 million baby boomers reach retirement age. In the next two decades, the segment of the state’s population ages 75 to 84 will be the fastest growing group among those ages 65 and older. Wake County is projected to lead the state in growth in the number of people aged 65 and older in the next two decades, according to state projections.

North Carolina’s Aging Population

Age 2012 Popn % of Popn 2032 Popn % of Popn % Change
60+ 1,908,038 19.5% 3,087,050 26% 61.8%
65+ 1,345,388 13.8% 2,379,382 20% 76.9%
85+ 159,580 1.6% 291,528 2.5% 82.7%

Source: N.C. Department Health and Human Services

Many of us have family members who are in this age group, and will be in the position of making important decisions about their care. When a loved one has dementia, a physical condition or illness, it may be necessary to find a nursing home to provide skilled nursing and medical care. For older persons with dementia, physical disabilities and other illnesses, this is often the best or the only possible solution.  According to the 2010 American Community Survey, 96 percent of the people living in long term-care facilities had some disability.

U.S. Population 65 and Older by Decade

2010 40,228,712
2020 54,804,470
2030 72,091,915
2040 81,238,391
2050 88,546,973


Elderly relatives with memory problems, those who are suffering from nutritional deficiencies, and those in frail health will need ongoing supervision and medical treatment. Research shows that in excess of 40% of those over 65 will be living in a nursing home before they die.

U.S. Census data reveals that in 2010 there were 1.3 million of our country’s seniors living in nursing homes and other similar care facilities. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that one in ten seniors will be a victim of elder abuse from a caregiver. Nearly one in every three U.S. nursing homes have been cited for violations of federal standards, and nearly 1 out of 10 had violations that caused a resident serious harm, injury or placed that resident in jeopardy.

An interview of 2,000 nursing home residents revealed that 44% of those interviewed said that they had been a victim of abuse, and 95% reported that they had been neglected or witnessed another resident being neglected.

Percentages in Cases of Reported Abuse in Nursing Homes

Type of Allegation Percent
Abuse 50.7%
Injuries of unknown origin 18.6%
Misappropriations of resident property 14.9%
Neglect 11.8%
Mistreatment 3.9%
Other 0.1%


Nursing Home Abuse: Watch for the Signs

It is extremely important when placing your loved one in a nursing home that you stay alert for any sign of nursing home neglect or abuse. One of the challenges is that a senior who is suffering from abuse may not communicate what is occurring. They may feel embarrassed or threatened or be unable to communicate due to dementia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have outlined the types of abuse inflicted upon nursing home residents.

Some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse you must be alert to include:

  • Bruising
  • Overuse of Restraints (bruising around wrists and ankles)
  • Abrasions
  • Broken Bones
  • Burns
  • Bed Sores
  • Poor Hygiene
  • Serious Weight Loss
  • Emotional Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Lack of Interest in Usual Activities

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse includes injuring an elderly person by hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing burning or other type of force exerted upon the body. Injuries can include cuts, scratches, bruises and welts, and more serious cases include head injuries, broken bones, and ongoing pain. This form of abuse can lead to premature death or aggravate existing health problems. The CDC reports a caregiver or someone that the elderly person trusts often is responsible for inflicting the abuse.

Sexual Abuse

This criminal form of abuse occurs when an elderly person is forced to participate in a sexual act, and is unable to consent or does not consent. The abuse may not be reported due to an inability to communicate, fear, humiliation or embarrassment.

Emotional Abuse

These are actions that harm the elderly person’s feeling of self-worth or emotional well-being, including name-calling, scaring, destroying personal property, embarrassing the individual, yelling, threatening or restricting the elderly person from seeing friends and/or family. This form of abuse can lead to an elderly person becoming fearful and anxious, or becoming wary when around others.


This is when a nursing home (or caregiver) fails to meet the basic needs of the elderly person in food, housing, supervision, clothing and medical care.


When an elderly person is left alone without proper care the consequences for his or her physical and emotional health can be significant.

Financial Abuse

Misuse of an elderly person’s bank accounts, property or other assets is a common form of elder abuse. Financial abuse includes unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, changes in beneficiaries in a will, and the disappearance of valuable personal items such as jewelry.

Elder Abuse is a Crime

The National Institute of Justice reports that most states did not have laws in place protecting the elderly from abuse until mid-1980. The agency did a study that revealed the following facts:

Eleven percent of the elderly had reported some form of mistreatment in the past year. The breakdown of the types of abuse suffered revealed that 5.1% reported emotional mistreatment, 1.6 percent reported physical mistreatment, 0.6 percent reported sexual abuse, and 5.1 reported neglect. Financial exploitation by a family member was reported by 5.2 percent of the elderly.

What You Can Do

If you have placed an elderly loved one into a nursing home, you have a real reason for concern. If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of some form of nursing home abuse in North Carolina, it is imperative that you act quickly and report the incident to the facility and to the authorities. You have a right to pursue compensation from the negligent parties. Connect with Hardison & Cochran for immediate assistance.

About the Author

Hardison & Cochran was established based on the conviction that a modern approach was essential in today’s legal landscape. Focused on delivering exceptional results through a skilled team, the firm prioritizes personal attention, integrity, and client needs. Each attorney, paralegal, and staff member is dedicated to this vision. Over three decades, with Ben Cochran overseeing daily operations, the firm has evolved into a highly respected practice.

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