Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse describes harm to residents of long-term care facilities. Though this form of elder abuse can occur between residents, it is more common for caretakers to harm those in their care.

Knowing the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect may help you protect your loved ones. Your ability to recognize the signs of elder abuse help you pick a nursing home for your spouse, parent, or other loved one. Recognizing the signs will also help you stop nursing home abuse as early as possible.

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By filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit, you can seek financial compensation and justice from those who caused you or a loved one harm.

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Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Unfortunately, the typical signs of nursing home abuse are far too common.

According to the World Health Organization, as many as 1 in 3 older adults have been the victims of nursing home abuse, and 2 in 3 staff members surveyed admitted to abusing or neglecting residents.

Obvious Signs of Elder Abuse

Many of the most obvious signs of elder abuse are those that reflect severe trauma.

For example, bedsores are a clear sign of neglect since they shouldn’t develop unless the resident is being left in the same position in bed for far longer than they should be. Bedsores start out as stage one, which appears merely as redness of the skin.

However, blisters or wounds appear in later stages and are much more noticeable. When bedsores reach an advanced stage, the neglect has likely been ongoing for weeks or months.

Some of the most obvious signs of elder abuse are:

  • Bedsores (especially stage three or four)
  • Broken bones
  • Dental or facial injuries
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe bruises, cuts, or welts

Less Obvious Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

older woman sitting in a chair alone

Elder abuse shares many characteristics with other forms of abuse. Many victims of nursing home abuse, like many victims of domestic violence, may have a hard time revealing that they have been hurt. Victims may conceal their abuse or neglect out of shame, fear of not being believed, or fear of retaliation.

Further complicating the matter is that the abusers are often the very people who work at nursing homes and who would be among the first people asked about signs of abuse.

Some less obvious signs of nursing home abuse or neglect to look out for include:

  • Change in behavior or personality
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Depression
  • Difficulty with eye contact
  • Fearfulness or increased timidity
  • Increased isolation from family and friends
  • Repeated injuries or visits to emergency rooms
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted disease diagnosis

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Elder abuse can affect victims in different ways that go beyond the categorization below. Consider these categories more of a broad overview than anything else. After all, nearly all types of abuse will have psychological or emotional aspects to them — and when you consider the lasting harm from nursing home abuse, financial hardship is almost certain, whether as a type of abuse or indirectly when including the costs of treatment and recovery.

Physical Abuse

Causing physical harm to a nursing home resident is nursing home physical abuse. This type of elder abuse includes pushing, kicking, or hitting.

Nursing home sexual abuse is also included in this category. Any unwanted or non-consensual sexual contact between an elder adult and anyone else — such as nursing home staff or other residents — is sexual abuse. This includes instances where a resident or other older person cannot consent to sexual activity due to dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairments.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse in nursing homes can include bullying, threats, or insults as well as cutting residents off from family and friends. This form of abuse is often a component of other types of nursing home abuse.


Nursing home neglect is when residents are left unattended for extended periods of time. This sort of neglect can result in dehydration, bedsores, sepsis, and other potentially deadly conditions.

Financial Abuse

Elder financial abuse occurs when someone illegally or improperly uses or withholds financial resources from an elderly person for their own benefit. Nursing home financial abuse can happen through the use of trickery, threats, misuse of access through guardianship or power of attorney, or simply through taking advantage of the elder’s reduced mental capacity.

While financial abuse directly targets assets and money, all forms of elder abuse can result in significant costs. If you or your loved one have been a victim of nursing home abuse, call (888) 726-9160 to speak to our team of legal professionals to find out if you’re entitled to compensation.

Elder Abuse Statistics

According to the U.S. Justice Department, at least 10% of adults age 65 and older experience some form of abuse each year. The most common type of nursing home abuse is psychological and emotional abuse.

According to the World Health Organization, nursing home residents and loved ones report that 33.4% of residents have experienced psychological abuse. Staff-reported psychological abuse accounts for 32.5% of all abuse.

Nursing home abuse statistics suggest that most elder abuse is at the hands of family members. Perhaps most distressingly, Clinical Interventions in Aging estimates that five cases of elder abuse go unreported for every one case that is reported to authorities.

Red Flags: Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

It’s essential to know the nursing home abuse signs, but it’s also important to recognize possible indicators that a nursing home might be a dangerous place for your loved one. As great as it is to know the signs and stop abuse quickly, it’s even better for there to never be any abuse at all.

Perhaps the biggest red flag to look for is understaffing. When a nursing home is understaffed, it’s possible for residents to be neglected or mistreated simply because there aren’t enough staff to care for all the residents properly. An understaffed nursing home may also be desperate enough to fill vacancies that they don’t perform due diligence on potential caregivers.

Before choosing the nursing home for your loved one, you should

  • look for signs of abuse or mistreatment in current residents
  • Talk to current residents, and
  • Discuss your concerns with staff

Make sure your loved one knows that you will treat any reported abuse seriously and keep in close contact with them — it’s the best thing for them, regardless of any risks of abuse.

What To Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

If you suspect nursing home abuse, report your suspicions to local and state authorities. In an emergency, call 911, but even if it’s not an emergency you should inform the local police of your suspicions. Most states have hotlines for adult protective services that you can also contact.

You may also be able to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit to seek compensation for the harm your elderly loved one suffered. These lawsuits can provide money to cover treatment and the cost of moving the victim to a safer place. can put you in touch with top nursing home abuse law firms today.

FAQs About the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

How can knowing the signs of nursing home abuse help me?

By knowing the obvious and less obvious signs of abuse, you can recognize when your older loved one is potentially being hurt.

Though that’s the most important value in knowing the signs of elder abuse, this knowledge can also help prevent abuse to begin with. If you can spot the signs of nursing home abuse in residents when you’re only considering a nursing home, it will deter you from letting your loved one live there.

Who can sue a facility for nursing home abuse or neglect?

If you’re the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you may be able to sue. In most cases, spouses and immediate family members are also able to sue nursing homes for abuse or neglect of their loved one. Other relatives may also be able to sue on behalf of the victim.

If the abuse or neglect has led to or contributed to the victim’s death, the immediate family or the victim’s estate administrator can potentially bring a wrongful death suit against the facility and others involved in the abuse or neglect.

Why is elder abuse so often underreported?

Nursing home abuse is often underreported for many reasons discussed above. Many victims feel ashamed of having been abused and others fear that they simply won’t be believed. In other instances, those who know of the abuse simply don’t know how to report the abuse. Still other instances are unreported because the victim is physically or cognitively unable to report their abuse.

How can I find a nursing home that won’t abuse or neglect my loved one?

You can start by looking at reviews and reaching out to your state adult protective services or aging and disability services.

These departments can often give you insight about a facility such as:

  • Number of complaints in the past year
  • Number of complaints found to be valid in the past year
  • Number of qualify of care violations cited in the past 1 to 2 years
  • Status of the facility’s license – if there have been requests for license termination

You should also visit facilities, talk to residents and staff, and look for red flags or signs of evasiveness when asking about your concerns. You can ask to talk to the facility administrator or director of nursing and be prepared to ask about issues and to see documentation.

Don’t be shy about asking questions or asking to see records supporting the claims being made — your loved one is too important to risk a dangerous nursing home. Icon

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  1. Mileski, M.; Lee, K.; Bourquard, C.; Cavazos, B.; Dusek, K.; Kimbrough, K.; et al. “Preventing The Abuse Of Residents With Dementia Or Alzheimer’s Disease In The Long-Term Care Setting: A Systematic Review.” Clinical Interventions in Aging. October 22, 2019. Retrieved on September 15, 2022 from
  2. National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Why Didn’t You Say Anything?” Retrieved September 14, 2022, from
  3. United States Department of Justice. Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation Statutes.” Retrieved September 14, 2022, from
  4. United States Department of Justice. “Elder Abuse Statistics.” (n.d.) Retrieved on September 15, 2022 from
  5. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Abuse of older people. World Health Organization. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from
  6. World Health Organization (WHO). “Elder abuse.” October 4, 2021. Retrieved on September 15, 2022 from
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