As discussed in a previous post, physical abuse is the most common type of abuse reported in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the U.S. The National Center on Elder Abuse defines physical abuse as any act of physical force that could cause another person physical pain, injury or impairment. This type of harm can occur when an offending person shoves, hits, slaps, kicks, pushes or shakes another person with an intent to cause them pain or harm. When a staff member or other employee of the nursing home is the one who is acting violently toward an elderly patient, they may be guilty of this type of nursing home abuse.
A recent study performed by researchers at Michigan State University found that 24.3 percent of elderly residents in nursing homes who were surveyed reported that they were physically assaulted by nursing home staff in one or more incidents. The study also found that patients with behavioral issues, who faced limitations in performing regular daily activities, and those were previously abused were more likely to be physically abused by staff in the future.
Signs of physical abuse may not be immediately apparent to family members of elderly residents of care facilities. Some incidents may not result in any physical symptoms, but the abused person may become withdrawn or suddenly change their behavior. More alarming and obvious symptoms include bruising, fractures and open wounds that are healing at various stages. This could indicate that abuse is chronic and ongoing. If a caregiver refuses to allow visitors, or for a visitor to see an elderly person without staff member present, physical abuse may be an issue. Family members should routinely look for these red flags in order to ensure that their elderly loved ones are not victimized in this way by those who are supposed to be providing for their medical and physical needs.