How Common Is Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes and Other Care Facilities?

A large percentage of the U.S. is aging; statistics show that in 2019, 16.5 percent of Americans were 65 years old or older. If current trends continue, it’s expected that 22 percent of the population will be 65 or older by 2050. 

Many elderly people are unable to care for themselves or live independently and rely on assistance from family members or home-care providers. When those options aren’t available, many elderly adults move to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. The National Center for Biotechnology Information indicates that approximately 1.5 million adults live in nursing homes, and 1 million live in assisted living facilities. 

Unfortunately, these facilities often fail to protect residents from health threats, physical and verbal aggression, and emotional and sexual abuse. Nursing home residents are also vulnerable to financial exploitation. While the perpetrators of elder abuse are sometimes family members, this sort of treatment also comes from other residents and/or employees of care facilities. 

National statistics on elder abuse in assisted living facilities and nursing homes

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It provides data on elder abuse. Studies show that between 10 percent and 16 percent of elders experience abuse, including psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse. Neglect is also reported frequently. 

The NCEA states that these numbers are likely inaccurate; most incidents of abuse are unreported and undetected. In fact, one study indicates that there are 24 cases of undetected abuse for every single case that gets reported to authorities.

The World Health Organization offers additional statistics on elder abuse in nursing homes and other institutional settings. According to the WHO, studies show that 64.2 percent of staff members in care facilities report perpetrating some form of elder abuse.
In the U.S., the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) maintains a rating system for nursing homes. The system rates the quality of care in a nursing home based on criteria such as annual inspections, surveys or complaints, and nursing-staff-to-resident ratios. Data from 2019 shows that in that year, 38 percent of nursing homes in the CMS system had a rating of “below average” or “much below average.”

Elder abuse in Wisconsin nursing homes and care facilities

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services publishes an annual report on elder abuse and neglect in the state. According to the 2020 report, there were 985 allegations of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation in situations where the victim was living in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

A November 2021 Nursing Home Inspect report from ProPublica indicates that there are concerns about many of Wisconsin’s nursing homes. In terms of the number of nursing homes with serious deficiencies, Wisconsin is in the top ten list of states with these problems. Approximately 31 percent of CMS nursing homes in Wisconsin had at least one serious deficiency in the past three years.

Common signs of elder abuse

There are several warning signs of elder abuse or neglect:

  • Unexplained injuries, scrapes, and/or bruises
  • Bed sores and/or unsanitary conditions
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Dehydration
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Sudden behavioral changes

In many cases, individuals are unable or unwilling to report abuse. If you notice any of these potential signs of abuse, you can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Division of Quality Assurance (DQA). Contact a nursing home abuse attorney to learn whether you have the option to pursue a legal case against the care facility. 

Contact Boller & Vaughan if you suspect elder abuse in a Wisconsin nursing home

Statistics show that elder abuse is unfortunately common in nursing homes and other care facilities in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. In many cases, abuse and neglect continue simply because residents aren’t able to report it. Family members who suspect abuse often don’t know how to report it or stop it.

At Boller & Vaughan, we know that there are many Wisconsin nursing homes that provide excellent care. However, we also know that there are other assisted living facilities and nursing homes that neglect and abuse their residents. We are committed to fighting for victims and their families.
If you suspect a loved one is receiving inadequate care in a Wisconsin facility, contact Boller & Vaughan. During your free consultation with our team of nursing home abuse attorneys, you can discuss your concerns and learn what your legal options are. To make an appointment at our Madison office, call 608-268-0268 or contact us online.


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