Physical Abuse

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 5% to 10% of self-reported elder abuses are physical. A study from 2012 found that roughly 25% of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while living in a nursing home. The effects of physical abuse on the elderly are often dire, with abused elders 300% more likely to die than individuals who have not been abused. (Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team. “Statistics on Nursing Home Abuse - Get the Facts You Need.”, 7 Jan. 2019,

Physical abuse means harm by physical force. The Judicial Council of California defines physical abuse as follows:

Physical abuse includes assault, battery, assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury, sexual assault, and rape as defined by their respective Penal Code definitions. In the context of elder abuse, physical abuse also encompasses physical constraint, prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water, use of physical or chemical restraint or psychotropic medication for punishment or for any purpose not authorized by a physician who is providing medical care to the elder.

Mosqueda, Laura. “Elders Abuse Pocket Reference.” Judicial Council of California, 2012,

The following are common manifestations of physical abuse in nursing homes:

  • Kicking, scratching, or biting
  • Hitting or slapping
  • Pushing or grabbing
  • Inappropriate use of physical restraints, such as straps or holds
  • Unwarranted administration of drugs
  • Neglecting to provide necessities like food, water, clothes, and sanitation
  • Other applications of inappropriate force

California law requires any person who has assumed full or intermittent responsibility for the care or custody of an elder to report any suspected physical abuse to local law enforcement. Failure by nursing home or assisted living staff to report physical abuse of an elder is a criminal offense punishable by a fine and or jailtime. California Code, Welfare and Institutions Code - WIC § 15630. Elderly victims of physical abuse and their loved ones may also be entitled to just economic compensation for the trauma that they experience, regardless of whether criminal charges have been maintained.

When a senior citizen is physically abused, it can be difficult for the victim and their loved ones to determine what actions should be taken. To make matters even more complex, a study by the National Institute of Justice reports that police involvement in elder mistreatment cases can often lead to increased physical abuse for the victim. (Davis, RC, Medina-Ariza, J. Results from an elder abuse prevention experiment in New York City. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice; Washington, DC: 2001.) While contacting law enforcement is an obvious and necessary first step, finding a long-term legal solution is a multi-step process that requires planning and coordination. At the Southern California Nursing Home Law Group, we understand these cases and can advise you on a proper course of action.

The attorneys at the Southern California Nursing Home Law Group have extensive experience dealing with cases involving physical abuse of the elderly. If you believe that your loved one was physically abused by nursing home or assisted living staff, then there may be a viable case against the home or facility under California law. For a free and confidential evaluation of your specific case, call the Southern California Nursing Home Law Group at (866) 607-1325 or fill out an online questionnaire. We would be happy to help.

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