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Effects of Physical Abuse

The physical abuse of elderly in nursing homes is a serious issue that only got nationwide recognition very recently. Although other types of abuse may get more attention, the abuse of elderly has significant consequences for the elderly themselves, and often these effects last for the rest of their lives. The elderly, physicians, caregivers, and family members must all work together to reduce the amount of abuse that is occurring in nursing facilities.

In comparison to elderly populations who live outside of nursing homes, nursing home residents are more likely to suffer from physical abuse. About 10% of the elderly population has suffered abuse, but 44% of the nursing home population has reported that they were victims of abuse.

This disparity is due to many contributing reasons. Residents in nursing homes are usually older, frailer, and more likely to suffer from illness and disease. They are also less likely to come into contact with family members and are more secluded from the community. All of these factors put this population at greater risk of abuse than the overall elderly population.

Immediate Physical Effects of Abuse

When an elderly person is physically abused, there are several immediate effects on their body and their health. These effects are noticeable, so if you see these types of injuries on an elderly patient, you should report the abuse as soon as you can. Though some of these injuries seem minor, these injuries and the recurring abuse can cause major health problems for the victims.

Immediate physical effects of abuse include but are not limited to:

  • Bruises, welts, and black eyes
  • Cuts, lacerations, and wounds
  • Fractures, broken bones, and dislocations
  • Internal injuries and internal bleeding
  • Head, neck, and back injuries
  • Chronic pain and soreness

These immediate effects might seem minor, but they could require expensive treatment and hospitalization. Just being abused and becoming injured is a major risk factor for the elderly, and elderly who are abused have a 300% higher risk of death.

Other Physical Effects of Abuse

Recurring abuse and neglect could lead to other physical problems for the elderly victims. These symptoms indicate that the abuse is having serious and long lasting effects on the patient, so they cannot be ignored under any circumstances.

Other physical effects of abuse include:

  • Substantial weight loss
  • Dehydration and malnutrition
  • Bedsores
  • Worsening overall health
  • Increased vulnerability to illness and infection
  • Insomnia and inability to sleep

Psychological Effects of Abuse

Though there aren’t physical markers of these injuries, visiting family members often notice the psychological effects of abuse. When patients are acting strangely or differently, or you notice abrupt changes in personality, this could be due to physical abuse. Residents of nursing homes already have a high risk for depression and other problems if they feel secluded or less independent. Physical abuse can compound on these feelings of isolation and sadness and cause very serious psychological effects.

Some of the psychological effects that are caused by physical abuse are:

  • Anxiety and excessive fear of others
  • Eating disorders
  • Withdrawal and depression
  • Refusal to take medication
  • Changes in behavior and personality
  • Agitation

Psychological effects of abuse can often lead to eating and sleeping problems as well as refusal to take medication. These behaviors can cause a patient’s health to decline making them further depressed and increasing their risk of serious illness or death.

The Costs of Physical Abuse

Elderly abuse is a widespread problem in America and has many hidden costs. The monetary costs to treat violent injuries of the elderly add $5.3 billion to healthcare expenditures every year. The costs for treatment of psychological injuries may be even higher.


“Elder Abuse: Consequences.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Jan 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/consequences.html>.

“Elder Abuse.” National Institute on Aging. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 Feb 2014. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/elder-abuse>.

“Statistics/Data.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.aspx

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