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If your loved one is in a nursing home or elder care facility, you put your trust in the facility to take care of them. Unfortunately, that may not always be the case. Nursing home abuse is any type of harm that happens to residents in the facilities. This could include physical or emotional injuries, sexual assault, and financial or other types of abuse.

Nursing home abuse is more common than one might think. In 2014, according to the National Ombudsman Reporting System, 14,258 (7.6%) of approximately 188,599 complaints reported involved abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation.

Neglect of a resident and/or patient at a nursing home involves conduct by a nurse, certified nursing assistant, or another employee of the facility that falls below the standard of care. If negligent conduct causes injury or death, legal rights exist that can be pursued.

4 Types of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Abuse in a nursing home and/or assisted living facility can be categorized in several ways including physical, psychological or financial abuse. Physical abuse including welts, wounds, and injuries. Psychological abuse can include psychological distress, emotional symptoms and depression. Financial exploitation can also be a form of abuse.

When looking at nursing home negligence and abuse, there are four common types:

1. Medication Errors

A 2016 study from the American Journal of Managed Care found that medication errors were common, involving between 16-27 percent of all residents in studies of all types of medical errors, and 13-31 percent of residents in studies that examined errors elated to transfers.

There are many ways medication errors can occur in nursing homes, including:

  • Medication omission or under dosage
  • Medication overdose
  • Providing expired or old medication
  • Lab errors
  • Providing the wrong form of mediation

Patients involved in medication errors as a result of negligence or abuse at a nursing home may be eligible for compensation for medical bills, physical, psychological, and emotional injuries.

2. Preventable Falls

Nursing homes typically report 100-200 patient falls per year, many of which are preventable. Adults 65 and older are four times more likely to die of a fall-related injury if they live in a nursing home compared to those who live at home or with a loved one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 16-27 percent of nursing home falls are a result of environmental hazards. Some of these hazards consist of poor lighting, slippery floors, improper exit signs and more. Failing to prevent these hazards could make them legally responsible if a resident gets hurt. Not receiving adequate medical treatment after a fall could also make the nursing home facility liable for the resulting pain and injuries. Other common causes of preventable falls in nursing homes include natural aging, recent surgery, and coagulation.

If you have a loved one fall at a nursing home, take immediate action to rectify the situation. Don’t hesitate to remove them from the facility. Make sure that the incident is documented with photographs of the injury, witness statements and medical records if applicable. Make sure to take any relevant photos or get other documentation of any causes of the preventable fall, such as spilled liquid if possible.

3. Choking

Difficulty swallowing is an often-overlooked side effect of growing older. The most obvious risk of choking is death. Irreversible brain damage caused by lack of oxygen to the brain happens after about three to four minutes. In nursing homes, residents left unsupervised can choke if they fail to properly chew their food or if it’s not cut into small enough bites. Even if someone is next to them, an untrained or inexperienced staff member can hurt instead of help the resident.

Common causes of choking include dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other medical conditions, as well as medications, natural aging, poor staff hiring, and inadequate medical treatment. If a nursing home or hospice facility does not provide adequate care and protection for these individuals, they may be responsible for any injuries resulting from a choking incident.

>>Learn more about common causes of choking in nursing homes

4. Malnutrition & Dehydration 

Malnutrition & Dehydration are common problems at many nursing homes. Nursing home facilities are required to provide adequate care and nourishment for their residents and patients. Unfortunately, there are a variety of ways a nursing home can fall short, resulting in malnutrition or dehydration for patients and nursing home residents.

Common causes of malnutrition and dehydration include complications from medications or medical conditions, and failure to provide adequate food. 

Should I hire a nursing home abuse lawyer?

A nursing home is supposed to be a safe place for your loved one. When this is not the case, it can be very stressful. There are deadlines in reporting nursing home abuse, which an attorney can help with. They can also help gather evidence and medical records. Hiring an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer can help relieve some of that stress.

Attorney Benjamin S. Wagner


Benjamin S. Wagner is a shareholder with the firm. His practice includes nursing home abuse and neglect, personal injury, car accidents, construction accidents, premises liability incidents, wrongful death and motorcycle accidents. Benjamin has successfully tried numerous cases throughout Wisconsin. Because of his significant trial experience and success, he has been certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and as an advocate by the National Board of Civil Pretrial Practice Advocacy.

He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2003 and received the Phillips Owens Memorial Scholarship for outstanding academic achievement and community service.

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Attorney Molly C. Lavin


Molly Lavin is a Shareholder with the Firm and co-managing partner of the Waukesha office. She is a second-generation lawyer, following in the footsteps of her father. Molly focuses her practice in the area of general personal injury law. This means that Molly has handled cases with a varied set of facts. Many of her cases involve injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. She has also handled cases involving nursing home injuries, slip and falls, sexual assaults, dog bites, pharmacy errors, and injuries caused by home or building owners and/or contractors.

Molly graduated cum laude from Marquette University Law School and received her B.S. from the University of Dayton.

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