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Nursing Home Physical Abuse

Nursing home residents are susceptible to physical abuse because of their physical dependence on others. Some residents cannot communicate effectively or at all, and therefore have difficulty reporting abuse themselves. 

Maltreatment of seniors is unacceptable, and immediate action should be taken to hold both the perpetrator and the nursing home accountable. Physical abuse encompasses both sexual assault and any form of physical assault or maltreatment. 

Even though a resident may not be able to speak for themselves, their physical condition can reveal warning signs of nursing home abuse. These signs include unexplained cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. If you believe that a relative has been physically abused by a nursing home employee or by a fellow nursing home resident, it is crucial to take action immediately. 

Do not hesitate to report the abuse to the Illinois Department of Public Health and contact the local police and adult protective services. Removing the resident from the home as soon as possible may be warranted. 

Then contact our nursing home abuse attorneys in Chicago, who have successfully represented victims of nursing home abuse for over 30 years and can help you seek justice for your loved one. Holding abusive staff and negligent nursing homes accountable sends a strong message that these actions will not be tolerated and helps prevent further abuse. 

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What constitutes physical abuse?

Any type of physical pain, impairment, or injury due to neglect or maltreatment is considered physical abuse. Unfortunately, physical abuse is one of the most common kinds of abuse in long-term care facilities and can lead to life-threatening injuries or complications.  

Common types of physical abuse in nursing homes fall into three categories: 

  • Active abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Misuse of facility restraints 

Nursing homes that allow resident abuse may be found negligent and therefore liable for the injuries and emotional trauma the resident experienced. 

Active Abuse 

Active abuse is the type that most people associate with physical abuse. It involves one individual physically contacting another with the intent to cause hurt. Hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, or pushing are common methods of active abuse. Some nursing home residents may abuse others by biting, scratching, or using an object to hurt the victim. 

Active abuse is typically easier to observe, and the aftereffects may be readily apparent. Often, other workers or residents, or even the facility’s security cameras, may witness direct active abuse. 

Physical Neglect 

Neglect may not be intentional but instead caused by a lack of resources in the facility—either staffing, supplies or both. Residents may not receive the level of care needed and their physical health may suffer as a result.  

For example, some nursing home residents may require assistance eating or have a feeding tube, but the facility may not have enough staff members to feed each resident in a timely manner.  

Other residents may require help cleaning themselves, including cleaning after using the bathroom, but short staffing may result in residents sitting or lying in waste long enough to lead to rashes and other skin conditions. 

Nursing homes have a duty of care to maintain a sanitary environment and promptly take care of residents’ personal needs. If a nursing home facility fails to uphold its duty, it may be negligent.  

Furthermore, nursing home administrators or the managing company of these properties that allow an environment of neglect and abuse may be negligent and therefore responsible for the abuse. 

In such cases, enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney to hold these corporations accountable is the most effective way for families to receive compensation and prevent others from enduring such treatment in the future. 

Misuse of Restraints 

Restraints in nursing homes are to be used only for medical reasons and only for a short and definite period. When restraints are used for a prolonged period of time, residents can sustain injuries to their wrists or ankles. Residents may also injure themselves trying to escape the restraints. 

Misuse of restraints is against federal nursing home regulations. Not only can residents be hurt when trying to remove the restraints, but prolonged use can cause residents to lose muscle tone or bone mass and develop muscle disorders. 

Who commits nursing home physical abuse?

The most common perpetrators of nursing home abuse are other residents, nursing home workers, and visiting family members. 

Other Residents 

Abuse of one resident against another typically happens when staff members aren’t around. Unfortunately, when nursing homes are short-staffed, there is less supervision, and residents intent on harm have more opportunities.  

Residents may feel afraid to report the abuse because they’re worried the staff members will not stop it. It’s estimated that as many as 20 percent of nursing home residents suffer abuse at the hands of another resident. 

Nursing Home Caretakers 

Neglect occurs most often at the hands of staff members. Short staffing can be stressful for caregivers, who may neglect or even physically abuse residents out of frustration. Lack of employee training can also lead to neglect. Some workers may not realize the degree of care patients need and therefore neglect to provide that care. 

Visiting Family Members 

Sometimes, family members may visit a relative in a nursing home with the express purpose of abusing that person. Nursing home administrators have a duty to protect residents under their care, and once the nursing home is aware of the problem, they may be able to block visitation from the abuser. 

What are the warning signs of physical abuse in nursing home residents?

Physical abuse of your loved one in a nursing home is often easier to spot than financial, mental, or emotional abuse (which, unfortunately, are also common in long-term care facilities). When visiting your loved one, there are a few things to look for that may suggest abuse or neglect: 

If you note these signs, ask your loved one about any abuse. You may want to take photos of their injuries and any other supportive documentation of the abuse.

I think my loved one suffered physical abuse in a nursing home. What should I do now?

If you think your loved one has been abused in a nursing home, we can help. The Levin & Perconti legal team can prepare a case for damages for your family member and pursue civil action against the person or persons who abused them and the facility that permitted it to happen.  

We will seek maximum compensation for your claim and help ensure that your loved one is protected and the abusers are held accountable. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case at 312-332-2872. 



for a resident who suffered from dementia and was physically and sexually assaulted on one or more occasions by another resident of the defendant facility.



against a nursing home for an 80-year-old who was malnourished and developed pressure sores, resulting in death.