Shame on America: Nursing Home Abuse

Elderly Patients

By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In

For years I’ve focused my attention on how this country treats children and how so many of our children are abused and neglected.  Recently, a colleague sounded the alarm and drew my attention on the abuse and neglect with our senior citizens who live in nursing homes.

All Americans deserve to be treated with respect.  As our loved ones get older, they should have access to quality healthcare with dignity.  Many residents and patients receive good care and live happy and healthy lives in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.  However, statistics show that this is not the case for a number of our senior citizens.  In fact, many residents of nursing homes are victims of physical, sexual and financial abuse and many of these abuses go unreported.  Elder abuse by caretakers is a worldwide problem but my focus is here in the United States.

The following statistics serve as a snapshot of some the problems in U.S. nursing homes:

  • 91% of U.S. nursing homes have staffing levels too low to provide adequate care
  • 16% of U.S. nursing homes have a drop in nurse assistants’ hours per resident per day
  • The most common injuries in nursing homes due to understaffing or other types of abuse and negligence include fractures and bleeding in the brain
  • On average (nationally), a nursing home with 100 beds has anywhere from 100-200 falls per year. However, many more go unreported
  • About 10-20% of the falls reported nationally cause serious injuries; 2-6% of falls cause bone fractures
  • Approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die annually from falls across the country
  • In the United States, about 240,900 nursing home residents suffer from bedsores every year. This statistic is based on a national nursing home population of 3.3 million in 2009
  • Nearly 20% of nursing home facilities were cited nationally for failing to meet standards of care for pressure sores from 2005 to 2010.
  • In 2009, a CBS News analysis of the federal government’s nursing home inspection database found that more than 1,000 homes were cited last year for hiring staff with a history of abuse

According to a study by author Yue Li, from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, blacks in nursing homes are more likely than whites to suffer pressure ulcers and damage to bones and muscles due to differences in the quality of care that both groups receive.  The disparities arise in homes where there are a number of predominately black or white patients, not that homes are treating whites better than Blacks.

When Li and his colleagues looked more closely at differences between nursing homes, they found that both black and white residents were more likely to get a pressure ulcer at homes that had a higher percentage of black residents than at those that were almost all white.

That could be due to a number of reasons, said Nancy Bergstrom, who co-wrote an editorial accompanying the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  For example, nursing homes with more black patients might not be as well funded, or they may not have enough staff.

What can be done to improve this terrible situation?  As a community, how do we get started?

Wheel Chair

Other sobering statistics are as follows:

Elderly Abuse Statistics Data
Number of elderly abuse cases in 2010 5,961,568
Percent of elderly population abused in 2010 9.5 %
Demographics of Elderly Abuse Victims Percent
Percent of female elder abuse victims 67.3 %
Median age of elder abuse victims 77.9
Percent of white victims 66.4 %
Percent of black victims 18.7 %
Percent of Hispanic victims 10.4 %
Breakdown of Reported Elder Abuse Cases
Neglect 58.5 %
Physical Abuse 15.7 %
Financial Exploitation 12.3 %
Emotional Abuse 7.3 %
Sexual Abuse 0.04 %
All other types 5.1 %
Unknown 0.06 %
Nursing Home Abuse
Percent of nursing homes that lack adequate staff to properly care for patients 91 %
Percent of nursing homes that have been in violation of elderly abuse laws 36 %
Elderly defined as 60 years of age and older

If you suspect elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation, click here for state reporting numbers, or telephone the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

The National Center on Elderly Abuse (NCEA) now has a Facebook page. Click here to go there and stay current on news and information related to the NCEA and elder abuse.


American Association for Justice (

National Center on Elder Abuse, Bureau of Justice Statistics (

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.” 

4 Responses to “Shame on America: Nursing Home Abuse”

  1. This is a great article Gary. I have thought about this often and always suspected that nursing homes were not what they should be. Thanks for publishing this so that people are aware.

  2. You need to go National with this story with someone like Larry Elder…good job!!

  3. Edmund Scott Says:

    I know first hand what you are talking about.They killed my Mother and Father in what they call nursing homes.

  4. Shamefull hursing home abuse continues to rise in this country

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