Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

By learning the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, you may be able to detect and respond to any mistreatment in nursing homes before it leads to serious consequences. To stop nursing home abuse, you need to know the signs — and you need to take swift action.

If your loved one has been harmed in a nursing home, get a free case review today to learn more about how we may be able to help with your potential case.

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Forms of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing home abuse and neglect is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pressing global health problem. WHO warns that mistreatment in nursing homes can have serious consequences for this already vulnerable population.

Research shows that care home abuse can cause the following:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression
  • Financial devastation
  • Physical injuries
  • Wrongful death

For elderly people, recovering from nursing home abuse may be far more difficult and take much longer than it would for younger populations.

Tragically, nursing home abuse and neglect are alarmingly common. Nearly 65% of employees admitted to committing staff abuse in nursing homes, according to studies by WHO.

There are several types of abuse in nursing homes that residents may experience, including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse or financial exploitation
  • Emotional or psychological abuse

Knowing the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect is extremely important to keep loved ones safe and free from needless suffering.

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If you or your loved one experienced abuse in a nursing home facility, an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney with Sokolove Law can help you understand your legal options.

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Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Placing family members into nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other long-term care facilities can be a particularly difficult decision. Having to think about the possibility of a loved one experiencing nursing home abuse on top of that may seem unbearable.

However, it is critical to learn the warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect to prevent — or stop — it from happening. While the warning signs of elder abuse can be subtle, awareness can increase your chances of early intervention.

The signs of elder abuse in nursing homes can vary for each person and situation. They also vary based on the different types of nursing home abuse.

Because the warning signs of nursing home abuse may not be what you would expect, both the National Institute on Aging and the Administration on Aging (AOA) suggest monitoring your loved one carefully.

Signs of Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

The warning signs of physical abuse in nursing homes tend to be easier to detect than other types of nursing home abuse.

Some of the common signs of physical abuse in nursing homes include: 

  • Abrasions
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Pressure marks
  • Unexplained bruises or welts

Unfortunately, staff abuse in nursing homes can include several forms all at once. Emotional abuse — when a person’s words or actions cause a senior emotional pain  — may accompany other forms of abuse, which only intensifies the nursing home resident’s suffering.

Victims of physical abuse in nursing homes may become withdrawn and stop participating in activities they once enjoyed. This makes it very important to also monitor non-physical symptoms, such as unexplained behavior changes, which can also be a consequence of physical abuse.

“I saw a nurse hit and yell at the lady across the hall because the nurse told the lady she didn’t have all day to wait on her. The lady made some remark. The nurse hit the lady and said, ‘Shut up.’”

– Georgia Nursing Home Resident (Atlanta Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program)

In more extreme cases, nursing home physical abuse can lead to a resident’s death. In these tragic cases, the victim’s family or estate representative may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their loved one.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Patient neglect in nursing homes can be more difficult to detect than other forms of nursing home abuse. This is because the signs of nursing home neglect are often not as obvious.

However, elderly neglect in nursing homes can lead to consequences that are just as serious as they are in other types of nursing home abuse.

Some warning signs of nursing home neglect include:

  • Bedsores (also called pressure ulcers or pressure sores)
  • Failure to provide medical care to an older person in need
  • Poor hygiene
  • Signs of dehydration, such as constant thirst or dry skin
  • Soiled linens or clothing
  • Sudden changes in mental health
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Weight loss or other signs of malnutrition

Nursing home neglect can also cause wrongful death, which can happen in cases of preventable falls, medication mistakes, bedsores going untreated and leading to sepsis, and more.

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Signs of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes are not always as clear as many people might think. The thought of someone sexually abusing elderly residents is often too much for people to even consider. Predators rely on this innocence to commit — and then repeat — their horrifying acts of abuse.

What makes detecting the signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes even more problematic is that many nursing home residents have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia that make accurate reporting of abuse far more challenging.

The signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes may include:

  • Any report of sexual assault, regardless of the victim’s mental state
  • Becoming fearful of male caregivers
  • Being easily startled
  • Bruising around the genital area, inner thighs, or breasts
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Torn, stained, or bloody clothing or sheets
  • Unexplained bleeding in the genital area
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Because the elderly population is often physically and emotionally frail, sexual abuse in nursing homes can lead to devastating consequences. In addition to the physical effects of sexual elder abuse, mental health problems are also very common. Sadly, deaths associated with sexual assault and rape are known to occur, including suicide.

In some cases, filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can be the only way to bring justice and prevent these vile acts from happening to others. Contact Sokolove Law today to learn more about your legal options.

Nursing Home Abuse Risk Factors

Greater risk to nursing home residents exists in facilities with no abuse prevention policy. Effective policies incorporate guidelines for:

  • Background checks
  • How to maintain a safe environment
  • Proper staff training
  • Ways to reduce staff turnover

Additionally, research suggests that some patients are at greater risk of nursing home abuse than others.

“The risk for abuse increases simply as a function of their dependence on staff for safety, protection, and care.”

– National Institutes for Health (NIH)

Nursing home residents with dementia or disruptive behaviors, highly dependent patients, and those with significant need for assistance may be at a higher risk of nursing home abuse and neglect.

What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

The most important thing to remember is that nursing home abuse will not stop on its own. It’s imperative that you act quickly to protect your loved one and prevent others from potentially experiencing the same thing.

If a nursing home resident is in immediate danger, call 911 without delay.

If you’re not sure what your legal rights are or what you should do, it can be a good idea to contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer who can evaluate your case and let you know what your options are. Because laws vary by each state, it can be difficult to determine what constitutes nursing home abuse or neglect without the help of an experienced attorney.

As a national nursing home abuse law firm, Sokolove Law can help victims of abuse and neglect nationwide seek the justice their loved one deserves — at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

Get Help From Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

If you or your loved one are experiencing nursing home abuse or neglect, there are alternatives to suffering in silence. Your brave decision to act could help others.

By filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit, you may be able to hold the abusers accountable, pursue compensation, and potentially prevent others from experiencing the same abuse.

When you work with Sokolove Law, you get access to a national network of experienced nursing home abuse lawyers. Over the last 40+ years, we’ve recovered over $220 Million for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect nationwide.

Fill out our free, no-obligation contact form or call (800) 995-1212 today to learn more about your legal options with Sokolove Law.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect FAQs

What is abuse in nursing homes?

Nursing home abuse is defined by the federal government as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinements, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish.”

Under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, nursing home residents have the legal right to be free from nursing home abuse and neglect.

What types of abuse can occur in nursing homes?

The types of nursing home abuse that can occur often include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse

Sadly, nursing home residents may experience one type of abuse or several types at once.

What are the warning signs of elder abuse in nursing homes?

Depending on the type of nursing home abuse, the signs of elder abuse in nursing homes may include:

  • Bedsores and other preventable conditions
  • Behavior changes (like being withdrawn, agitated, or violent)
  • Looking messy or having poor personal hygiene
  • Loss of interest in activities they enjoy
  • Signs of PTSD (like rocking back and forth, hyperarousal, or having flashbacks)
  • Signs of sexual assault
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you or your loved one experienced abuse in a nursing home care facility, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer without delay to discuss your legal rights confidentially and free of charge.

What is considered nursing home neglect?

Nursing home neglect is defined as the failure to protect a nursing home resident from physical harm or mental anguish.

How common is nursing home abuse?

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1 in 6 nursing home residents experiences some form of abuse. As high as 65% of employees admitted to committing staff abuse in nursing homes. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased rates of mistreatment in nursing homes.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: October 29, 2021

View 4 Sources
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  2. National Institute on Aging. “Elder Abuse.” Retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse. Accessed on October 5, 2021.
  3. Psych Central. “Understanding Elderly Emotional Abuse and Its Preventive Measures.” Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/lib/understanding-elderly-emotional-abuse-and-its-preventive-measures#1. Accessed on October 5, 2021.
  4. World Health Organization. “Elder abuse.” Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse. Accessed on October 5, 2021.