Friends and family will occasionally ask what kind of legal work I do. When I say “Nursing Home abuse and neglect,” they sometimes look puzzled.

“What is nursing home neglect?” they will often ask.

Rather than answer outright, I usually tell them about cases we have filed.

Like the one where an elderly woman was dropped by two cna’s (both of which were very new to the profession) and she broke both of her femurs – the strongest bone in the human body.

Or I tell them about the cases where people die of infection because they had pressure ulcers (bed sores) so deep that their bones were exposed to feces, urine etc.

Sometimes I tell them about the cases where elderly men and women leave the facility, unsupervised, only to fall outside and either suffer injury as a result of their heads hitting the pavement, or exposure to the weather.

Its usually around this point I see them becoming uncomfortable.

“How could this happen? Who would let someone suffer in such a way?”

If I really want to provide an example that will upset the listener, I share stories of elderly dementia patients who are over medicated because the nursing staff literally does not have time to take care of them or watch them as the wander and walk the halls.

“Is that legal, do these people go to jail?” my friends often wonder out loud.

I know of no case in Virginia where a nursing home employee has faced criminal charges for abuse or neglect during their work. Abuse and neglect however, in long term care facilities, is very real, and very sad.

Do these people usually mean to treat these elderly people so badly? No. I would venture to say most nursing home abuse / neglect is NOT intentional. But with so many people who need help, and so few nurses, they often times cannot effectively care for their patients.

Is that an excuse? No. It’s a fact.

Higher staff to patient ratios could virtually alleviate nursing home neglect. So why don’t they hire more nurses?

I’ll let you make that conclusion…. and I doubt you will be satisfied with the answer.

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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