Nursing Home Abuse: How to Protect Loved Ones — A Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer’s Guide for 2024 & Beyond

As a nursing home abuse lawyer, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact that mistreatment can have on residents and their families. It’s a pervasive issue affecting millions of vulnerable individuals in long-term care facilities nationwide.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is any harm or injury received by elderly individuals living in long-term care facilities by their caretakers. This mistreatment can be intentional or unintentional and may include physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse, as well as neglect. Some nursing home abuse cases can lead to life-threatening injuries or wrongful death.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

Physical abuse is the use of force against a nursing home resident, resulting in bodily harm, physical pain, or impairment. Examples include hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, or improperly using restraints.

Nursing Home Neglect

Neglect is when a caregiver fails to provide an elderly resident with the necessary care, leading to harm or endangerment. This includes failing to provide adequate nutrition, hydration, hygiene, medical care, or a safe environment.

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Sexual abuse is any non-consensual sexual contact with a nursing home resident. This can include unwanted touching, sexual assault, or forcing a resident to view pornographic material.

Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Emotional abuse involves any verbal or nonverbal behavior that causes psychological distress to a resident. Examples include humiliation, intimidation, threats, isolation, or infantilization.

Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Financial abuse is when someone illegally or improperly uses a nursing home resident’s funds, property, or assets. This can include theft, fraud, forgery, or coercion.

Real-Life Examples of Nursing Home Abuse

An LPN Pleads Guilty After Neglected Elderly Patient Falls and Dies

In March 2022, Christann Gainey, a former nurse at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Village senior living facility, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor neglect of a care-dependent person and tampering with records in connection with the 2018 death of Herbert R. McMaster Sr., the father of former Trump national security advisor H.R. McMaster Jr. McMaster Sr., aged 84, fell and hit his head in April 2018, just days after arriving at the facility, and died hours later due to brain bleeding.

Gainey, who was the Licensed Practical Nurse on duty that night, was required by facility policy to perform neurological and vital sign checks on McMaster periodically after the fall but failed to do so. As part of the plea agreement, felony neglect and involuntary manslaughter charges were dropped. Gainey was sentenced to six months of house arrest and four years of probation, during which she is barred from seeking reinstatement of her license or working in a care facility.

Nursing Home Employee Charged with Abusing Elderly Residents

In December 2023, the Memphis Police arrested Anthony Guess, a worker at Quince Nursing and Rehabilitation, for allegedly abusing an 80-year-old male resident and giving him a black eye. According to the police report, Guess became upset when the victim refused to go to bed and forcibly removed him from his wheelchair, placing him on the bed.

Guess then proceeded to undress the victim against his will despite the elderly man’s cries for help. After ensuring no nurses were nearby, Guess struck the victim, causing a black eye. The victim reported Guess’s actions to the facility’s management, highlighting the importance of thoroughly vetting nursing home staff and maintaining a safe environment for vulnerable residents.

Nursing Home Abuse in Hopkins Caught on Camera

Alleged nursing home abuse caught on camera


In a disturbing case, hidden camera footage revealed multiple instances of abuse at a nursing home in Hopkins, Minnesota. The footage showed staff members physically and emotionally abusing residents, including rough handling, verbal threats, and neglect. The case emphasizes the value of video monitoring in detecting and preventing abuse.

How Common Is Nursing Home Abuse?

The statistics surrounding nursing home abuse are alarming:

These figures highlight the widespread nature of nursing home abuse and the pressing need for action.

What is the most common abuse in nursing homes?

Neglect is the most common type of nursing home abuse, followed by psychological abuse, financial exploitation, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.

How many cases of nursing home abuse are reported?

It’s challenging to determine the exact number of reported nursing home abuse cases, as many incidents go unreported. However, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that approximately one in five high-risk Medicare claims related to potential abuse or neglect.

Do for-profit nursing homes have higher rates of abuse?

Research suggests that for-profit nursing homes may have higher rates of abuse and neglect compared to non-profit facilities. A study published in the journal Gerontology found that for-profit nursing homes had more deficiencies related to quality of care and resident rights violations.

Risk Factors and Causes of Nursing Home Abuse

Several factors can increase the risk of abuse in nursing homes, including:

  • Understaffing and high staff turnover rates
  • Caregiver stress and burnout
  • Inadequate training and supervision of staff
  • Inadequate screening and background checks for staff
  • Lack of oversight and accountability within the facility
  • Residents with cognitive impairments or communication difficulties
  • Residents who are socially isolated or lack family support
  • Facilities with a history of violations or poor management
  • Ageism and negative attitudes towards the elderly
  • Insufficient resources and funding for proper care

Identifying Nursing Home Abuse

What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

As an advocate for your loved one, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and watch for potential indicators of mistreatment, such as:

  • Unexplained injuries, including bruises, welts, or scars
  • Bedsores or untreated infections
  • Falls resulting in fractures or head trauma
  • Signs of dehydration or malnutrition
  • Fearfulness or withdrawal in the presence of certain staff members
  • Sudden changes in behavior or mood
  • Sexually transmitted diseases or genital injuries
  • Missing personal belongings or unexplained financial transactions

Nursing Home Abuse Warning Signs

In addition to the signs mentioned above, other warning signs of nursing home abuse may include:

  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Lack of proper medical care or medication management
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Unusual restraint marks or bruising
  • Staff refusing to allow visitors or private time with the resident

The Elderly Are the Least Likely to Report Elder or Nursing Home Abuse

It’s important to note that elderly individuals are often hesitant to report abuse due to fear of retaliation, shame, or a lack of cognitive ability to communicate their experiences. This underscores the importance of family members and loved ones being proactive in identifying and reporting suspected abuse.

Abuse of the Elderly Is Not Exclusively Violent or Physical

While physical abuse is a serious concern, it’s crucial to recognize that nursing home abuse can take many forms, including emotional, sexual, and financial abuse, as well as neglect. These types of abuse can be just as damaging to a resident’s well-being and quality of life.

Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

How Do I Report Nursing Home Abuse?

In Tennessee, you can report suspected nursing home abuse to the following agencies:

  • Tennessee Adult Protective Services (APS): Call the toll-free hotline at 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366) or visit the APS website for more information.
  • Tennessee Department of Health, Division of Health Care Facilities: Call the Complaint Hotline at 1-877-287-0010 or file a complaint online through the Department of Health’s website.

If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, it’s essential to take immediate action. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Document any signs of abuse, including photos of injuries or living conditions.
  2. Report your concerns to the nursing home administrator and request an investigation.
  3. Contact Tennessee’s Adult Protective Services (APS) to report the suspected abuse.
  4. File a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health, which oversees nursing home licensing and regulation.
  5. Consult with a nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your legal options and protect your loved one’s rights.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is a federal initiative that advocates for the rights and well-being of nursing home residents. In Tennessee, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is administered by the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability. Ombudsmen can investigate complaints, provide information about residents’ rights, and help resolve issues related to nursing home care.

Nursing Home Abuse Laws

In Tennessee, several laws protect nursing home residents from abuse and neglect, including:

  • The Tennessee Adult Protection Act, which mandates reporting of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of vulnerable adults.
  • The Tennessee Health Care Facilities Act, which establishes standards for nursing home licensing, operation, and quality of care.
  • The federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, which sets forth residents’ rights and requires nursing homes to provide a certain level of care to maintain Medicare and Medicaid certification.

Can You Sue a Nursing Home for Abuse?

Yes, you can sue a nursing home for abuse or neglect in Tennessee. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit seeking damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses resulting from the abuse. In some cases, you may also be able to pursue a claim against individual staff members or administrators who were responsible for the abuse.

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

If you’re considering taking legal action against a nursing home for abuse or neglect, it’s essential to work with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. At our firm, we have a deep understanding of the laws surrounding nursing home abuse in Tennessee and can help you navigate the legal process, gather evidence, and fight for the compensation and justice your loved one deserves.

How to Find the Best Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?

When searching for a nursing home abuse lawyer, consider the following factors:

  • Look for a lawyer with specific experience handling nursing home abuse cases in Tennessee.
  • Check the lawyer’s track record of success in securing settlements or verdicts for clients.
  • Read reviews and testimonials from past clients to gauge the lawyer’s communication skills, compassion, and dedication.
  • Schedule a consultation to discuss your case and ensure that you feel comfortable working with the lawyer.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

How Can I Prevent Nursing Home Abuse?

While it’s not always possible to prevent nursing home abuse entirely, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk and protect your loved one:

  • Research nursing homes thoroughly before making a decision, looking for facilities with good reputations and high staffing levels.
  • Visit your loved one frequently and at different times to monitor their well-being and care.
  • Communicate regularly with nursing home staff and administrators to express any concerns or questions.
  • Encourage your loved one to stay socially engaged and connected with family and friends.
  • Be vigilant for signs of abuse and report any suspicions immediately.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

In addition to the steps family members can take, nursing homes themselves play a crucial role in preventing abuse. This can include:

  • Implementing rigorous screening and background checks for all staff members.
  • Providing ongoing training and support for caregivers to prevent burnout and stress.
  • Maintaining adequate staffing levels to ensure residents receive proper care and attention.
  • Encouraging a culture of transparency, accountability, and respect for residents’ rights.
  • Regularly monitoring and addressing any reports or signs of abuse.

Nursing Home Abuse Consequences

The consequences of nursing home abuse can be devastating for both victims and their families. Victims may suffer physical injuries, emotional trauma, and a diminished quality of life. In severe cases, abuse can even lead to premature death. Families may face significant medical expenses, legal costs, and the heartbreaking reality of seeing their loved one suffer.

How to Protect Your Loved Ones from Nursing Home Abuse

At The Higgins Law Firm, we understand the immense trust you place in nursing homes to care for your loved ones with dignity and respect. When that trust is violated, and your loved one suffers abuse or neglect, it’s essential to take action to protect their rights and well-being.

If you suspect that your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse in Tennessee, we’re here to help. Our team of compassionate and experienced nursing home abuse attorneys will listen to your concerns, investigate the situation, and fight tirelessly to hold the responsible parties accountable.

Don’t let your loved one suffer in silence. Contact our office today to schedule a free, confidential consultation and learn how we can help you protect your loved one’s rights and pursue the justice they deserve. Together, we can work to end the scourge of nursing home abuse and ensure that all residents receive the safe, dignified care they need and deserve.

Author Bio

Jim Higgins, founder of the Higgins Firm, is a seasoned personal injury attorney with deep roots in Nashville, Tennessee. A 4th generation Nashvillian, Jim carries on the legal legacy of his father, a judge for over 30 years. After graduating from the University of Memphis School of Law, Jim’s career began on the other side of the courtroom, defending insurance companies and learning their tactics for minimizing settlements. However, he soon realized his true calling was fighting for the rights of the injured, and for the past several years, he has exclusively represented plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

Since then, his dedication and skill have earned him membership in the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an organization limited to attorneys who have secured million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for their clients. Licensed to practice in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, Jim focuses on personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, and workers’ compensation cases. His exceptional work has been recognized by his peers, earning him a spot on the Super Lawyers list from 2021 to 2024, a distinction awarded to only a select group of accomplished attorneys in each state.

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