What are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

Elderly man shows sadness from neglect or abuse


As our loved ones age, ensuring their safety and well-being becomes increasingly important, especially when they live in nursing homes. Unfortunately, instances of abuse and neglect in nursing homes do occur, making it essential for family members to be attentive and proactive in identifying signs of mistreatment. Recognizing these warning signs empowers everyone to take immediate action to protect the elderly and uphold their rights to dignity and respectful care. By educating ourselves with the various types of abuse and neglect, you can play a pivotal role in ensuring the health, safety, and overall quality of life of our elderly loved ones.

Physical Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Physical abuse can demonstrate a range of harmful behaviors, from direct acts of violence to neglect resulting in bodily harm. Identifying these physical indicators is crucial for intervening effectively and preventing further harm. There are various signs of physical abuse that may indicate a loved one is at risk.

 Signs physical abuse in nursing homes may include:

  • Unexplained broken bones, fractures, or sprains
  • Bruising, scarring, or welts on the body
  • Improperly taking medication

  • Signs of restraint
  • Refusal of caregiver to let you be alone with the resident
  • Recurring injuries
  • Burns or bite marks
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Flinching at sudden movement
  • Signs of malnutrition or dehydration
  • Unexplained changes in the individual’s mobility or ability to perform daily activities
  • Reluctance to remove clothing or reluctance to be examined
  • Signs of excessive force used during caregiving tasks, such as force-feeding or aggressive handling
  • Presence of pressure injuries (also called bedsores)
  • Reports of aggressive behavior or rough handling from other residents or witnesses
  • Unexplained injuries in areas typically protected by clothing, such as the abdomen, back, or thighs
  • Signs of defensive wounds, such as bruising or abrasions on the hands or arms

Signs of Nursing Home Emotional Abuse

Understanding signs of emotional abuse is crucial for protecting the mental and emotional wellbeing of nursing home residents. Emotional abuse encompasses various harmful behaviors, such as belittling, controlling, or isolating tactics, which can inflict lasting psychological damage. Noticing these emotional indicators is important for taking preventive measures to intervene and prevent further harm. Numerous signs of emotional abuse may emerge, underscoring the need for heightened awareness and supportive action to ensure the emotional well-being and dignity of our loved ones.

Signs of emotional abuse may include:

  • Using derogatory remarks
  • Employing demeaning language
  • Purposely prolonging wait times for essential needs like food, medication, or basic care
  • Obstructing the decision-making process
  • Making false accusations against the resident
  • Engaging in verbal hostility
  • Moving an elder’s assistive devices out of their reach (such as walkers, canes, glasses, or dentures)
  • Yelling at elderly individuals
  • Issuing threats of social isolation
  • Manipulative behavior aimed at controlling the individual’s actions or decisions
  • Gaslighting: systematically undermining the individual’s perception of reality or making them doubt their memory, perception, or sanity
  • Intentionally causing embarrassment or shame in public or private settings
  • Undermining the individual’s relationships with friends or family members through manipulation or coercion
  • Excessively criticizing or blaming the individual for minor mistakes or accidents
  • Withholding affection, support, or attention as a form of punishment or control
  • Isolating the individual from social activities, hobbies, or interests they enjoy
  • Talking to the nursing home resident as if they are a child

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect is a distressing reality that can have severe consequences for the well-being and dignity of elderly residents. Neglect can show up in various forms, from inadequate medical attention and substandard living conditions to emotional and social isolation. By recognizing the signs of nursing home neglect, loved ones can advocate for improved standards of care and ensure the safety and dignity of vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities.

Warning signs of neglect can include:

  • Elderly individuals left alone at public locations
  • Unsafe living conditions, including lack of heat, faulty electrical wiring, fire hazards, or absence of running water
  • Inappropriate dressing for weather conditions
  • Lack of bathing or leaving the individual dirty
  • Living in soiled bedding, clothing, or unsanitary conditions
  • Presence of bedsores due to inadequate repositioning
  • Unexplained weight loss or signs of dehydration
  • Residents complaining of hunger or not having enough to eat.
  • Limited food choices or meals that are not tailored to residents’ dietary needs or preferences.
  • Water pitchers or cups left empty or out of reach, preventing residents from accessing fluids.
  • Residents exhibiting signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, sunken eyes, or infrequent urination.
  • Residents left in uncomfortable or unsafe positions, such as sitting in soiled diapers or in positions causing discomfort or pain.
  • Failure to address residents’ emotional needs, such as providing reassurance or comfort during times of distress.
  • Failure to assist residents with mobility exercises or activities that promote physical well-being.
  • Lack of access to toileting facilities or assistance with toileting needs.

Signs of Nursing Home Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation involves the unauthorized or improper use of a person’s funds, assets, or property, often perpetrated by individuals in positions of trust or authority. Victims of financial exploitation may suffer significant financial losses, jeopardizing their financial security, independence, and overall well-being.

Warning signs of financial exploitation in nursing homes can be:

  • Alterations in the elderly individual’s financial status
  • Unaccounted-for withdrawals from the elderly person’s bank accounts
  • Modifications in power of attorney, life insurance policies, property titles, or wills
  • Disappearance of cash from the elder’s residence or room
  • Inclusion of additional names to the signature card of the elder’s credit cards
  • ATM withdrawals while the senior is bedridden and unable to perform such actions
  • Failure to receive necessary medical care despite having sufficient financial resources
  • Acquisition of unusual goods, services, or subscriptions that the elder did not authorize or initiate
  • Abrupt changes in the elder’s spending habits or financial priorities
  • Unexplained loans or financial transactions involving the elder’s assets
  • Sudden transfer of significant assets or property titles to unfamiliar individuals or entities
  • Elderly person expressing confusion or concern about their financial affairs or statements
  • Reluctance or refusal by the elder to discuss financial matters with family or trusted individuals
  • Elderly individual being coerced or pressured into making financial decisions against their will
  • Evidence of forged signatures on financial documents or checks
  • Presence of multiple unpaid bills or overdue notices despite the elder’s financial resources
  • Sudden changes in the elder’s living arrangements or lifestyle that are inconsistent with their financial situation

Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves any unwanted sexual contact, activity, or behavior perpetrated against an elderly individual residing in a nursing home or long-term care facility. This heinous act can inflict profound physical and psychological harm on victims, often leaving them feeling violated, ashamed, and powerless, and leading to a shortened life expectancy. 

Signs of sexual abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Suffering a pelvic injury
  • Experiencing difficulty walking or sitting comfortably
  • Contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Discovery of torn, bloody, or stained underwear
  • Presence of bruises on the genitals or inner thigh
  • Experiencing bleeding from the anus or genitals
  • Irritation or pain in the anus or genitals
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Exhibiting signs of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Demonstrating symptoms of agitation
  • Displaying social or emotional withdrawal from others
  • Engaging in inappropriate, unusual, or aggressive sexual behaviors
  • Making suicide attempts
  • Demonstrating unusual or inappropriate actions suggestive of a sexually coercive relationship between the perpetrator of elder sexual abuse and the victim
  • Experiencing nightmares or flashbacks related to the abuse
  • Demonstrating heightened sensitivity to physical touch or intimacy.
  • Expressing fear or anxiety around certain staff members or residents

Signs of Nursing Home Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare fraud involves nursing home facilities engaging in dishonest practices to unlawfully gain financially through fraudulent healthcare claims or actions. These actions not only break the trust in the healthcare system but also put the quality of care for elderly individuals at risk. 

Signs of Healthcare Fraud include:

  • Indications of receiving inadequate or excessive medication
  • Receiving duplicate bills for identical services or devices
  • Inadequate training provided to the staff
  • Inadequate staffing levels to properly care for the elderly
  • Manifestations of substandard care despite full payment for services
  • Unnecessary medical procedures or services
  • Inconsistent or incomplete medical records
  • Resident complaints about inadequate care
  • Reluctance to provide information or answer questions about billing practices


As a society, we are all responsible for maintaining the well-being and dignity of our elders in nursing homes. This requires awareness of the signs of physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, and healthcare fraud. By recognizing these warning signs and taking proactive steps to address them, we can play a vital role in ensuring the safety, security, and overall quality of life for vulnerable individuals in long-term care facilities. It is important that family members, caregivers, and authorities collaborate to uphold the rights of elderly residents and hold accountable those who perpetrate harm or misconduct. By creating a culture of accountability, transparency, and compassion within nursing homes, we can work together to establish environments where elderly individuals receive the respect, care, and support they deserve.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as providing legal advice or the creation of an attorney client relationship. Laws are updated frequently and change from state to state. If you desire legal advice, you can contact Michael Hill Trial Law at www.protectseniors.com, send an email to info@protectseniors.com, call (800) 659-2712 to begin an investigation or contact another attorney.