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Elder Abuse Causes

Elder abuse is a complex sociological and cultural problem, and individual cases of elder abuse are typically caused by several factors. Some of these factors may be related to the quality of the nursing home and staff. The characteristics and personal issues of family members and caregivers are also very important in determining the underlying causes of the abuse. Larger societal issues and cultural forces also affect how elderly people are cared for and treated by others. By understanding the different forces that cause and contribute to elder abuse, family members and nursing facility staff can better recognize warning signs and prevent abuse from harming others. .

Quality of the Nursing Home

It is important to do as much research as you can before deciding to move a family member into a nursing home. While many nursing homes provide exceptional service, there are others consistently cited for violations and negligence. Some nursing homes provide excellent care to elderly residents, but may be more likely to abuse elderly who are seriously ill or have mental or emotional disorders.

Nursing home abuse can be caused by a number of different reasons. Some nursing homes are severely understaffed and therefor cannot provide enough attention to all of their residents. Some residents inevitably suffer abuse or neglect because of this lack adequate staffing.

Neglect can be very dangerous for nursing home residents. If those who are immobile or extremely sick are not cared for, they may develop bedsores, lose mobility and muscle tone, and may also be more prone to accidents. Falls are a common injury that occur in nursing homes that could be easily prevented if the nursing home were to have sufficient staff to attend to the personal needs of each resident.

Understaffed nursing homes  are also at a higher risk for stressed and exhausted staff members which increases the chance of abuse while caring for residents. Stress can cause staff member to be less attentive and increases the chances of accidentally injuring or neglecting someone. Staff who are extremely stressed or frustrated are also more likely to intentionally abuse and harm the patients that they should be caring for.

Caregiver Stress and Living Situation

Different factors in a caregiver’s life may also contribute to elder abuse. Unless you are caring for an elderly family member, you may not realize how difficult and stressful it can be. Caregivers must expend significant amounts of their time, money, and patience to make sure that their loved one is happy and safe. Often the caregiver lacks the training, knowledge, and resources to properly care for someone. The risks for abuse become even greater when the elderly person is sick or suffering from a mental disorder. These situations are even more stressful and can cause the caregiver to feel trapped and hopeless.

Because of all the stress on the caregiver, they may begin abusing the elderly person. This abuse may be unintentional and just a product of the caregiver’s frustration. Sometimes the abuse becomes intentional if the caregiver begins to actively resent the elderly person and the responsibilities of caring for them.

Regardless of the cause of elder abuse, once it has been recognized, it must be stopped. If you notice that an elderly person is being abused in a nursing home, you should immediately relocate them and report the abuse. If you are a caregiver who is struggling with the responsibility of caring for a family member, you should seek assistance from professionals, family, and friends.


Bartley, Mairéad, et al. “Self-Neglect and Elder Abuse: Related Phenomena?” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 59.11 (2011): 2163-2168. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Harris, Dylan. “Elder abuse.” Update 1 Dec. 2006: 84. Academic OneFile. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Jackson, Shelly L., and Thomas L. Hafemeister. “Differences in Causal Attributions of Caseworkers and Elderly Clients in the USA: Impact on Case Resolution and Cessation of Abuse.” The Journal of Adult Protection 15.5 (2013): 246-57.ProQuest. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

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