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May 3, 2018

It is a child’s worst nightmare: After months of deliberation, you place your elderly mother or father in a nursing home, thinking they will be cared for in a stimulating and safe environment. Months later it turns out they were the victims of horrendous abuse during their stay at the home you so carefully selected. Unfortunately, elder abuse in nursing homes is not an uncommon occurrence. With the elderly comprising over 13 percent of the population, this is a pressing concern. Nationwide, almost half of all nursing home residents have experienced some sort of abuse, which can vary depending on the situation.

Some nursing home residents are subjected to physical abuse, which may include striking, pinching, punching, shaking and burning, among other things. Others suffer sexual abuse, which is defined as sexual contact with any personal incapable of giving assent. This includes touching and explicit photography. Emotional abuse also frequently occurs in nursing homes. Residents may suffer insults, harassment, intimidation and teasing. Caregivers might also abuse their elderly charges financially: they may make unauthorized bank account withdrawals or coerce an elderly person into signing over money and goods. Finally, the two most common forms of abuse in nursing homes are abandonment and neglect. Despite having received financial compensation to do so, caregivers frequently neglect their elderly wards or abandon care altogether. A neglectful caregiver might also ignore a resident’s self-neglect, such as when an older person refuses to perform basic hygiene or take required medications.


If you suspect an elderly person a victim of abuse, do the following:

  1. If the abuse is immediate and life-threatening, call 911.
  2. If the abuse is not life-threatening or immediate, seek the care of a doctor. Then contact the police or your local elder care services.
  3. Consider hiring a lawyer trained in elder abuse.


The state of Arizona has very specific guidelines for dealing with nursing home abuse. Every year, Arizona’s Department of Adult Protective Services receives thousands of phone calls documenting elder abuse of one type or another. The majority of the victims are females age 75 and over. Almost a quarter of these abuse cases involve physical or emotional abuse, and another 20 percent concern neglect and financial abuse. Maricopa County alone had over 50 thousand cases of cited elder abuse, many of which occurred in nursing homes.

Federal law requires that nursing home residents receive a statement of resident rights, and the Arizona Department of Health Services clearly states what the rights are of a nursing home resident. The Department of Health lists the following nursing home resident basic rights in their consumer guide to nursing homes:

  •  A nursing home resident has the right to be treated with respect and dignity in full recognition of their individuality.
  •  A nursing home resident must lead a life of dignity and self-determination.
  •  A nursing home resident has the right to live a life free from interference, coercion and reprisal.

The Arizona Department of Health consumer bulletin also outlines a number of other rights, including freedom from restraint and abuse rights, which clearly state that no resident of a nursing home should suffer chemical or physical restraints that are not used to treat medical ailments. These rights also make it clear that nursing home residents should under no reason be verbally, sexually, mentally or physically abused. They should neither be intimidated, nor punished with seclusion. Additionally, a nursing home resident should never be punished, threatened, or face discrimination for exercising his or her rights.

If a resident of an Arizona nursing home suspects he or she is a victim of abuse, he or she has the right to submit his or her grievances to outside representatives without restraint. He or she should be able to contact and receive information from client advocates and to have immediate access to organizations and agencies they think will prove useful to their case. Residents of nursing homes should not be afraid to keep a log of abuse suffered while residing in a nursing home, and they should contact the appropriate agencies and individuals as soon as possible.


Should you or your loved one suffer from abuse in a nursing home, it is important that you contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help you navigate the often complex legal system and can assist in the filing of a lawsuit that will compensate for the injuries sustained from the abuse. Because they are specially trained in elder law, which requires a close familiarity with the statutes and regulations of nursing home care, elder law attorneys can ensure you receive the advice and guidance necessary to successfully file a lawsuit and manage insurance settlements.

Nursing home abuse is a shocking occurrence, especially when it happens to those closest to you. That is why it is important to familiarize yourself with your state rights in regard to nursing home care. Once you have determined that you or your loved ones are victims of nursing home abuse, contact the necessary professions. This includes your local elder law attorney — he or she is the best resource to ensure you get the settlement you deserve.

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