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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

What Is Considered Abuse by a Nurse?

People rely on the services of medical care and healthcare providers all the time. What they do not expect is abuse, neglect, or improper treatment by the staff members. Unfortunately, abuse committed by nurses can happen in these settings. While this form of violence takes place in public health settings of all kinds, assisted living facilities can be most at risk.

The National Center on Elder Abuse shows that about 10 percent of nursing home residents experience some form of abuse by staff members. Healthcare workers exploit patients for their age or their medical conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that there is insufficient data on nursing home abuse statistics due to a lack of reporting incidents. Nevertheless, it is critical to understand how abuse can take shape in these settings to prevent or report it.

Continue reading to learn more about what is considered abuse by a nurse and what a victim or loved one should do if they experience such harm. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can answer questions like, "How do you prove elder abuse in Tennessee?"

What Is the Definition of Abuse by a Nurse?

Abuse committed by a nurse in an assisted living facility can appear in a variety of ways. However, the common characteristics include willful infliction, unreasonable confinement, and punishment that ends with physical harm or mental anguish.

Unfortunately, these are not the only factors considered abuse. It can take shape in several ways, so understanding the many forms is critical for a safe nursing home experience.

What's more, it is nearly impossible to prevent abuse from happening. Taking the proper precautions when it happens can remedy the situation sooner. Still, patients should tell someone when they feel they are safest. Likewise, if a loved one notices signs of abuse, they should report the incident and subsequently consider filing a lawsuit.

Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing home residents deserve to be treated with care and respect. They have rights that protect them from being cared for otherwise. However, elder abuse still occurs and takes form in many ways. The most common types of abuse in nursing homes include the following:

  • Physical abuse

  • Verbal abuse

  • Psychological or emotional abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Financial abuse

  • Neglect

  • Abandonment

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse in nursing homes is when a nurse commits physical harm to an elderly person. Common examples of this form of abuse include punching and kicking, pushing, or restrainment.

Friends and family members can recognize physical nursing home abuse on their loved one if they notice broken bones, bleeding, or bruises. Nursing home residents who are victims of this abuse could suffer serious injuries. Unfortunately, residents with Alzheimer's disease are usually at a greater risk of physical violence.

Verbal Abuse and Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the most common type of abuse in nursing homes. According to the World Health Organization, about one-third of nursing home staff admitted to emotionally abusing residents in 2020.

This form of elder abuse is also considered psychological and verbal abuse. Name-calling, manipulation, and intimidation are considered elder mistreatment and are recognized as patient abuse. This verbal form of workplace violence also includes making threats and insulting residents' appearance or intelligence.

Emotional abuse is synonymous with psychological problems because the effects can lead to damaging mental illness among elderly residents. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety are all consequences of this patient abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Nursing home abuse includes sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact. Nursing staff members who commit this can cause bodily harm to their patients, including bruises and sexually transmitted diseases.

A nursing home resident who is disabled or physically unable to give consent may be more at risk for this form of nurse abuse.

Financial Abuse

Nursing home abuse can appear through financial abuse. This is when a nurse steals money from a patient or resident without their knowledge or through manipulation.

Some examples of this include a nurse altering a resident's will, stealing valuables, stealing financial records, and obtaining access to a resident's bank account.

Any of the mentioned scenarios can lead to serious harm to the financial well-being of a resident, but, most importantly, they are unlawful and unethical. Overall, such patient abuse affects their living situation.


Nursing home neglect is a little different from nursing home abuse. Whereas abuse is an intentional act, neglect is the result of carelessness. Nonetheless, it is still harmful to residents.

Essentially, it occurs when nurses fail to take care of their residents and their medical needs. There are several ways a staff member can commit nursing home neglect:

  • Medication errors

  • Dehydration and malnutrition

  • Hygiene

Nurses are responsible for patient self-neglect too. If a nursing home resident who was previously able to take care of themselves cannot do a sufficient job anymore, staff members must treat the resident. Failing to do this can lead to neglect.


Finally, abandonment is a form of nursing home abuse. This is when a nurse leaves a resident to fend for themselves without the supervision or care of someone responsible - such as another nurse or a family member.

Such violence can be harmful to the resident in a physical sense. They can fail to receive food and water. Additionally, this act of nurse abuse can take a negative mental effect on the elderly.

What to Do When Encountering Abuse

Unfortunately, domestic violence and elder abuse happen. There are steps people should take to responsibly report the incidents to reach justice and aid in the prevention of this workplace violence.

Nursing Home Residents

Upon experiencing a physical assault or a form of emotional abuse, residents or patients should contact the police. They should call 911 if there is a medical emergency. Officers can come to the scene to address the problem and help victims take the proper steps to seek justice.

Family Members and Friends

Visiting family members and friends who notice warning signs of abuse from their loved one - or if the resident recounts the abuse - should call local police. Officers can come to the scene to file a report, but they can also help the family take the next possible steps.

Friends and family can also contact Adult Protective Services for more assistance.

To acquire trusted legal expertise, loved ones should contact an elder abuse lawyer. They have experience in addressing these harmful situations and helping the victims' families recover compensation. A lawyer can also aid in seeking justice for the abuser.

Statute of Limitations on Nursing Home Abuse

The statute of limitations for abuse in nursing homes is one year in Tennessee. The victim's loved ones have one year to file a claim from the date of discovery.

Not every case is the same, so families must contact a lawyer immediately upon discovery to ensure that they get the most out of their legal rights.

Violence Against Nurses

While nursing facilities can contain abuse from the caretakers, nursing home residents can inflict emotional and physical harm upon the nurses. This can affect work performance and job satisfaction while threatening occupational safety.

According to the American Nurses Association, the most common way patients abuse nurses is through physical assaults or violence when receiving services.

Just like patients, healthcare providers can take legal action surrounding workplace violence against nurses.

In 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. If it becomes a law, healthcare settings, including nursing homes, would become much safer for nurses and patients alike.

How a Lawyer Can Help

How a Lawyer Can Help

A nursing home abuse lawyer should be a necessary component when seeking compensation for a nursing home resident who was emotionally or physically abused. They can fill in gaps that victims would otherwise be unable to complete due to legal complexities.

The lawyer can help file a personal injury lawsuit that can lead to financial compensation. While money cannot reimburse victims for the trauma they experienced, it can help pay any necessary medical bills resulting from the abuse.

An experienced lawyer can help families gather evidence to support their claims. Providing the court with sufficient evidence can lead to a greater chance for a more positive outcome for the plaintiff. They can also speak with a family during the initial free case review about whether the acts committed against the resident are, in fact, abuse. Nursing home abuse lawyers can also discuss the risk factors of suing and what to expect during the process.

Overall, a trusted lawyer is a guiding hand during the legal process for compensation as plaintiffs work closely with them, directing their questions and concerns to their legal expertise.

Contact Us - We Go to War for You

Friends and families of nursing home victims can contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for legal representation. They can assist in filing a lawsuit and help acquire fair compensation in the aftermath of abuse or neglect by nurses. They can also provide insight on what the most common nursing home abuse is.

Coping with exploitation is a challenge in and of itself. Having a trusted lawyer can make the road to justice smoother.

Therefore, Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys in Nashville, Tennessee, can help affected families seek redress. We go to war for you!


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