March 4, 2022

What Is Considered Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Nursing home abuse involves any type of harm—which may include physical or emotional injuries, financial exploitation, or sexual assault—inflicted upon a senior resident in a long-term care facility.

The nursing home abuse lawyers at Studinski Law, LLC have earned a reputation for excellence in cases involving the mistreatment of seniors in care facilities. Our founding attorney, Jason Studinski, is an authority on nursing home neglect and abuse law. His celebrated book, “How to Keep Your Loved One Safe in a Wisconsin Nursing Home” is a respected educational tool that helps Wisconsin families recognize signs of abuse and explains how to take action to protect elderly loved ones.

What Constitutes Abuse in a Nursing Home?

Abuse can take many forms in nursing homes. The most common behaviors that constitute nursing home abuse include:

Physical Abuse

When a staff member or another resident intentionally causes bodily harm to a nursing home resident, it is considered physical abuse. Although all residents in a nursing home are susceptible to physical abuse, individuals with cognitive disorders are more vulnerable.

Physical abuse can include behaviors such as:

  • Using objects to cause injury
  • Restraining or confining with ties, straps, or other restraints
  • Burning
  • Choking, pinching, or biting
  • Kicking, slapping, or punching
  • Grabbing, shoving, shaking, or pushing


Poor nourishment weakens the body severely. Depending on specific health issues or medication requirements, dietary needs can change. If nursing home employees fail to monitor the dietary restrictions of a resident, malnutrition can occur.

Signs of malnutrition include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Dry skin
  • Irritability
  • Kidney failure
  • Death


An adequate amount of daily water intake is crucial to maintain bodily functions and survive. If staff members withhold water, it can cause devastating health conditions and ultimately death.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Urination issues

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

Psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse can cause a resident to suffer mental trauma. Emotional abuse can lead to psychological damage and negatively affect a resident’s self-esteem and ability to enjoy life.

Emotional abuse can be committed in a number of ways, including:

  • Demeaning comments
  • Shaming or humiliating
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Using ageist, racial, and ethnic slurs
  • Insulting, mocking, and name-calling
  • Yelling
  • Taking away walkers, canes, glasses, or other necessary items
  • Threatening abuse
  • Ignoring requests for help
  • Preventing residents from engaging in social activities
  • Dismissing residents’ concerns

Financial Abuse

When a member of a nursing home’s staff attempts to gain financial control over a resident through manipulation and exploitation, it is considered financial abuse. This type of abuse usually occurs when a staff member befriends a resident and earns his or her trust in order to gain illegal and unauthorized access to the resident’s finances.

Financial abuse typically involves:

  • Investment exploitation
  • Transfers of property or assets
  • Improper use of power of attorney
  • Use of funds without resident’s knowledge or permission
  • Home repair or contractor scams
  • Telemarketing or internet or scams
  • Theft or embezzlement
  • Fraud
  • Changing wills or deeds
  • Forging signatures

Sexual Abuse

Any non-consensual sexual contact, whether as a result of force, deception, or manipulation, is considered sexual abuse. This type of nursing home abuse harms more than a resident’s physical wellbeing; it also causes severe emotional and psychological trauma.

Sexual abuse can take many forms, such as:

  • Rape
  • Forced nudity
  • Groping or intimate touching of any kind
  • Forced observation of sexual images
  • Taking sexually explicit photographs or audio/video recordings


While abuse involves a deliberate act against a resident with the malicious intent to cause harm, neglect is usually the result of carelessness, oversight, and indifference. Neglect includes both the intentional and unintentional failure to deliver sufficient care to a nursing home resident. 

Examples of nursing home neglect include:

  • Failure to meet residents’ specific care needs
  • Failure to provide adequate supervision
  • Failure to properly administer medications
  • Failure to regularly bathe residents
  • Failure to clean resident’s rooms
  • Failure to address residents’ complaints about staff, other residents, or conditions
  • Failure to report resident injuries or illnesses in a timely manner
  • Failure to ensure the security and safety of residents


When nursing home neglect becomes chronic, long-term behavior, it is considered nursing home abandonment. This form of abuse is characterized by an ongoing pattern of neglectful behaviors, such as:

  • Failure to administer medications on time or at all
  • Failure to assist residents with daily activities
  • Failure to regularly check on residents
  • Failure to turn bed-bound residents as needed to prevent pressure sores
  • Failure to adhere to the special dietary needs of residents or assist those who need help eating
  • Failure to correct hygiene concerns, such as changing soiled clothing or sheets
  • Failure to respond to residents’ calls promptly or at all

Call a Wisconsin Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer for Free

The nursing home abuse lawyers at Studinski Law, LLC have a proven record of successfully pursuing compensation for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If your loved one has suffered at the hands of a nursing home staff member or another resident, contact our office right away.

See our results.

Contact us today online or at (715) 343-2850 for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout all of Wisconsin, including Plover and Marshfield.

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