Fact Sheet: Elder Abuse and Nursing Homes

Millions of older Americans are abused or neglected in nursing homes; only a fraction is reported.1

  • Between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.2

  • For every case of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation, or self-neglect are reported to authorities, five more go unreported.3

  • In 2000, there were 472,813 reported incidences of abuse alone across the country.4

  • Long-term care residents suffer 1.9 million adverse drug events every year, 70 percent are preventable. As many as 86,000 of these events are fatal or life-threatening.5

Few nursing homes are responsible for the majority of abuse; if government cracked down on this small number of nursing homes, incidents of abuse, as well as claims and lawsuits, would decrease.

  • Between July 2000 and January 2002, 20 percent of the nursing homes across the country were cited for violations, many involving serious physical injury and death.6

  • During roughly the same time period, 23 percent of the facilities in California were responsible for 71 percent of lawsuits involving abuse or negligent care; 10 percent accounted for half of the lawsuits. More than half (53 percent) of nursing homes did not have a single lawsuit filed against it during those three years.7

The nursing home industry is profitable and sometimes sacrifice patient safety to increase profits.

  • Many for-profit nursing homes have earned exceptionally healthy profit margins, often 20 and 30 percent.8

  • For-profit nursing homes have on average 32 percent fewer nurses and 47 percent higher deficiencies than non-profit nursing homes.9

  • In the last few years, many nursing homes purchased by investor groups have provided inferior care while shielding themselves from regulators and litigation by creating intricate structures of shell companies and subsidiaries.10


1 Based on original research by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (NCCNHR).

2 “Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation in an Aging America,” National Research Council Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect, 2003.

3 “National Elder Abuse Incidence Study,” National Center on Elder Abuse at American Public Human Services Association, 1998.

4 “A Response to the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults: The 2000 Survey of State Adult Protective Services,” National Center on Elder Abuse, 2003.

5 Jerry H. Gurwitz et al., “Incidence and Preventability of adverse Drug Events in Nursing Homes,” American Journal of Medicine, 2000. Vol. 109:87-94.

6 “Nursing Home Quality: Prevalence of Serious Problems, While Declining, Reinforces Importance of Enhanced Oversight,” United States General Accounting Office Report to Congressional Requesters, July 2003.

7 “Much Ado About Nothing: Debunking the Myth of Frequent and Frivolous Elder Abuse, Lawsuits Against California’s Nursing Homes,” California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), November 2003.

8 Schmitt, Christopher H, “The New Math of Old Age,” U.S. News and World Report, September 30, 2002.

9 Harrington, Charlene et al., “Does Investor Ownership of Nursing Homes Compromise the Quality of Care?” American Journal of Public Health, September 2001.

10 Duhigg, Charles, “At Many Homes, More Profit and Less Nursing,” New York Times, September 23, 2007.

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