Traumatic Brain Injuries Increase Risk for Nursing Home Abuse

For many, the realization that their loved one needs to be admitted to a nursing home facility comes quickly. They lost their way in a public place and were found by a concerned neighbor. They mix up their medication and wind up in the emergency room. They get the call that a fall resulted in a bout of unconsciousness and a traumatic brain injury. Suddenly, the parent that cared for them in their youth is in need of professional and constant care, and in some cases, in danger of further injury at the hands of nursing home facilities.

Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries at Greater Risk of Abuse

In 3 years, 87, 292 Medicare recipients suffered traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, and were admitted to skilled nursing facilities. This large population of nursing home residents are “4-10 times more likely to become a victim of violence, abuse, or neglect” than a person without a traumatic brain injury or disability.

One of the reasons the risk is so high for this demographic is because of the difference in their needs from a general nursing home population. Many times, patients with TBIs do not need as restrictive environments and often live in non-licensed nursing homes that lack the resources, training, and staff to prevent abuse.

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide, “one of the most disconcerting things about this entire situation is that many of the facilities in which patients with brain injuries end up have very low ratings on federal inspections. This means those who place their loved ones in these facilities need to make sure they are visiting frequently and paying attention to the care they receive.” For those with loved ones in this situation, there are four main types of abuse to look out for.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse for TBI Patients

The Center for Disease Control outlines four types of abuse in their report “Victimization of Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury or Other Disabilities.

Physical Violence

Those recovering after a traumatic brain injury often need assistance re-learning daily tasks. For undertrained nursing home employees, this can seem willfully defiant and frustrating and punishment or force may seem appropriate. The reality is that the “intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury or harm” is never appropriate. If your loved one shows signs of being scratched, pushed, grabbed, shaken, slapped, or overly restrained, they may be experiencing physical abuse.

Sexual Violence

Many traumatic brain injuries leave a victim unable to defend themselves against sexual abuse. Lack of speech, lack of understanding, or lack of awareness can open a door for predators to abuse. In the CDC report, the definition for sexual violence goes beyond physically forcing an unwanted sexual act and is defined “as an attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act.” If a loved one begins behaving differently around a particular individual or suffers from uncharacteristic psychological outbreaks, it is possible they’ve been a victim of sexual violence.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse in patients with TBIs can be difficult to identify but can do just as much damage as more physical forms of abuse. When a person is “threatened, terrorized or severely rejected, ignored, or verbally attacked,” they are victims of emotional abuse. If your loved one begins to behave uncharacteristically reserved, anxious, or depressed, they may be experiencing emotional abuse.


Perhaps the most common form of nursing home abuse, neglect can occur in many ways. Neglect occurs when a person’s basic needs, like food, clothing, shelter, or hygienic needs, are unmet. Neglect can also happen by “preventing a person with disabilities from using a wheelchair, cane, respirator, or other assistive devices.” Missed medications or inaccurate record keeping can also be sources of negligent behavior. Victims of TBIs are often in need of special medication and assistance. The refusal or neglect of these needs can mean further injury to TBI patients.

The dangers of nursing homes are very real, and for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, these dangers are even more likely to occur. The CDC states in their report that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges such victimization as a serious and preventable public health problem.”

If your loved one is at risk, watch for signs of abuse. If abuse does happen, the team at Deliso and Associates are experienced in nursing home abuse law and are dedicated to fight for you and your loved ones. A person’s injuries shouldn’t make them at risk for more abuse. Call (718) 238-3100 today for a free consultation.

by Allison Theresa