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What is physical abuse of a nursing home resident?

Physical abuse is the same regardless of age or location of the recipient of the abuse. However, when seniors are abused it is felt as an outrage because they are less able to defend themselves physically. Even more so when that abuse happens in a residence that should be keeping them safe and healthy and are being paid to do so.

One word of caution, if you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras unless you are in the Serengeti. If you go to visit Mom or Dad and they have a bruise, don't immediately think abuse. They may have a bruise from bumping into something on the way to the bathroom or from some medication they are taking. Always inquire about any signs or verbal reports of injuries but don't judge the source until you get those answers.

Nursing home abuse can come from staff members, visitors, or other residents. The reasons may be due to very long-standing psychological or medical problems, such as dementia, if a resident is involved. For others, it may be the power and control cycle. Additionally, seniors in a home are easily overpowered and controlled by someone for who that dynamic is important.

Regardless of the reasons for the assault or the status of the perpetrator, abuse is never acceptable. It must be reported and thoroughly investigated. Nursing homes should have policies and procedures in place for this purpose and all staff members should be familiar with them. Steps must be taken to protect those who cannot protect themselves.  

Anthony Cirillo
Geriatric Medicine
Physical abuse causes a body injury, physical pain, or impairment to a nursing home resident. Some of the more common practices of physical abuse include striking, with or without an object, hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and also burning. There is also the unnecessary use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment that also fall under the physical abuse criteria.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.