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Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

signs-nursing-home-abuse-neglectDo you suspect that your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse? Do you believe that the nursing home staff members or other residents were to blame?

Our personal injury lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, are legal advocates for elderly patients victimized by nursing home neglect and abuse. Call nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact number today to schedule a free legal case review to pursue justice and financial compensation.

Nursing home abuse is a common problem that affects thousands of seniors every year. It can take many forms, from physical to emotional harm, financial exploitation, and even sexual molestation.

Unfortunately, the victims may not always show signs of abuse because they are afraid or feel powerless to do anything about it.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

A recent study concluded that nearly one in ten nursing home patients experienced some form of abuse in the past year. While such a statistic may seem insignificant, the scope of nursing home abuse is daunting, considering more than 1.3 million Americans are currently patients at these facilities.

The sad truth is that every time you drive by a large nursing home, you can assume that a handful of innocent people are being abused at the facility in one manner or another: physically, emotionally, financially, or sexually.

While the media has done a commendable service in exposing the significance of this problem, most of these episodes of poor care take place behind closed doors in a patient room, making discovering these atrocities even more difficult.

Since many families may have a loved one at a facility across the state or across the country, the detection of abusive conditions may go delayed or ignored completely.

Indication of Elder Abuse in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Families need to remember that they know their loved ones' personalities and traits far better than a person who may be temporarily caring for them in a nursing home setting.

Even though you may not have any formal training in detecting poor care, using your instinct can go a long way towards detecting mistreatment.

The following may also be considered signs of nursing home abuse:

Abused Nursing Home Residents

It can be a lonely and frightening experience in a nursing home where staff members provide substandard care. Families and friends should know the common warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, including:

  • Unexplained injuries such as cuts, bruises, or sprains
  • Clothing soiled with urine or feces
  • Unsanitary living conditions and surroundings, such as a dirty room or bedpan
  • Lack of personal hygiene items such as soap or toothbrush, unkempt fingernails
  • Malnourishment, improper nutrition, dehydration
  • Fearful demeanor and withdrawn attitude
  • Hesitance to talk about their living environment or to share information
  • Depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Frequent changes in mood or behavior
  • Excessive medication that does not seem to have a purpose or is being used as a punishment
  • The use of unnecessary or prescribed psychotropic medications used as control
  • Withdrawal from contact with family and friends
  • Unexpected death

If you think your loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to talk about their feelings and what they have noticed in their living environment.

Make sure that the facility staff is aware of your concerns as well. Finally, report any suspicion of physical or sexual assault to the proper authorities immediately.

With any form of abuse, your loved one should never stay silent about what is happening. If you think someone may be experiencing elder abuse, know the warning signs and respond.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this issue, some resources can help with everything from legal guidance to social services.

Physical Abuse

The physical signs of abuse are more obvious, but the victims may show or explain them in unusual ways due to confusion from dementia. Look for injuries that don't seem to make sense, such as bruises in places that are hard to reach, like the back, shoulders, shins, and hips. If the injuries are in these areas, there is a high likelihood that they were self-inflicted.

In addition to witnessing the resident's physical harm, look for signs of restraint, like bruising at the wrists and ankles or broken blood vessels in the eyes. Physical abuse could include black eyes, cigarette burns, cuts on inner thighs or genitalia, rope burns, or broken bones, especially a fractured hip.

Emotional Abuse

A common sign of emotional abuse is when the victim withdraws from normal activities such as eating, bathing, or using the bathroom in areas where others can see them. Other signs may include a depressed mental state and withdrawal from social situations that were once enjoyed.

Financial Abuse

The senior might not know if their retirement or savings accounts have been depleted. Older people could be suffering from anxiety over the unknown loss of their money, or they might miss payments on bills that were once taken care of by a trusted helper or a medical staff member.

Financial exploitation is among the many signs of nursing home abuse and neglect when others gain access to the elder's cash, credit cards, or other property through unexplained withdrawals. Theft can also include stealing the resident's drugs, especially psychotropic medication, using the medicine illegally (healthcare fraud).

Sexual Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse can be harder to detect because many seniors cannot express what happened to them. Look for unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, bruising around the breasts or genitalia, and sexually transmitted diseases.

There may also be emotional repercussions from sexual assault, such as withdrawal from normal activities or refusing to talk with family members out of fear or shame.

If you have any reason to suspect sexual abuse, a trusted family member or friend should act quickly by calling the police, then contacting an attorney experienced in nursing home abuse cases.

If the seniors become confused about where they are or who they are with, they may be abused and deserve more attention than the caregiver can provide. The victim will need strong legal representation to prove their claim and get justice.

Any suspicion that your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse should prompt you to consider getting them out of the facility and into a safer environment as soon as possible.

You should act immediately if your loved one shows any of the signs above. Do not wait or try to investigate on your own.

Bringing your concerns forward as soon as possible provides the victim a better chance of being protected from further nursing home abuse. In addition, taking legal action can provide the family monetary recovery for medical expenses and the funds necessary to treat the loved one's emotional trauma.

The Unapparent Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

The warning signs that nursing home residents are the victim of neglect involve observations about their appearance, overall condition of the room and the building, and complaints from other residents.

Inadequate Care or Cleanliness

When the nursing home resident appears to be unkempt with:

  • Dirty hair, dry, red, flaky skin
  • Torn or dirty clothes
  • Rings of dirt under the fingernails
  • Bad breath
  • Body odor

Detecting any of the problems listed above might indicate that they are not receiving adequate care or being neglected. For example, the patient's room is messy in some neglect cases, with disorganized furnishings and clothing strewn around the floor.

Poor Hygiene

If you notice that the nursing home resident has dirty hands, chapped lips, unwashed hair, skin rashes on their arms or legs, they may be suffering from neglect.

Wearing Dirty Clothing

If you notice that the nursing home resident is wearing dirty clothing when the other patients are dressed neatly or appropriately for the weather with clean clothing, this might indicate possible neglect. On the other hand, however, their appearance might mean language or cultural differences at play.

Inappropriate Clothing

If you notice that the nursing home resident is wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather, such as a heavy coat or socks in warmer months, and they are dressed for bed when it is time to get up, this might indicate possible neglect.

Weight Loss

If the nursing home resident is underweight with visible ribs and spine; sunken cheeks and eyes; dry, flaky skin that hangs loose instead of clings to the bones; and loss of muscle tone in the face, hands, arms, and legs, they may be suffering from neglect.

Drastic Unexplained Weight Gain

If the nursing home patient is overweight with rolls of fat protruding from their body; thick, puffy face; double chin; trembling hands that are puffy or swollen; difficulty in moving without assistance.

Moreover, weight gain in a short period (indicating possible medication-induced weight gain), they may be suffering from neglect.

Unsanitary Conditions

If you notice that the nursing home resident has dirty hands, chapped lips, unwashed hair, skin rashes on their arms or legs, they may be suffering from neglect.

With Adult Protective Services, a nursing home abuse attorney can file a formal elder abuse complaint against the nursing home facility, citing poor personal hygiene, a lack of adequate staffing, or outright elder abuse.

Unexplained Wounds or Bruises

If you notice that the nursing home patient has evidence of injury in odd places such as under gloves or socks; visible stiffness from being bedridden for a long period; and signs of new injuries or unexplained bruises, they may be suffering from neglect.

Lack of Attention

If the nursing home resident gets up without assistance to use the bathroom, gets out of bed, and is not being properly watched or supervised, this might indicate possible neglect.

Unsafe Conditions or Injuries

Did you notice that the nursing home patient has broken bones visible through the skin with no splint or cast, or:

  • Is in a wheelchair when they do not appear to need it, and there is no obvious cause for using it for movability
  • The resident is in pain or sadness without reason given
  • There are signs of bed bugs, lice, fleas, etc.
Bed Sores

If you notice that the nursing home resident has bedsores or skin ulcers resulting from pressure on their body over a long period, they may be suffering from neglect.

Without immediate ongoing care and professional medical advice in nursing homes, early-stage pressure sores can develop into life-threatening conditions like pressure ulcers (decubitus bed sores).

Bedsores develop when the nursing staff fails to rotate or turn the resident so that they are not lying in one position for too long. The open wounds also develop when the nursing staff fails to change the resident's position in bed or turn them frequently enough.

Lack of Love and Human Interaction

If you notice that the resident does not have regular interaction with other people, does not receive visits, and is alone for much of their day, this may indicate possible neglect.

Many understaffed assisted living facilities and nursing homes fail to provide sufficient human interaction among the elderly residents, leading to intentional infliction of the resident's need for human kindness.

Lack of Assistance with Self-Care

If you notice that the nursing home patient needs assistance when it is time to get up, walk, bathe, dress (or undress), eat, go to the bathroom, and brush their teeth, this may suggest possible neglect.

A lack of assistance and sudden changes in the patient's health in long-term care facilities due to substandard medical care could be signs of a criminal offense involving abuse or neglect.


If you notice the nursing home patient has a significant drop in their weight, loss of muscle tone with loose skin, and visible bones. Furthermore, only eating Jell-O or ice cream, always thirsty, and have no appetite, they may be experiencing neglect and could be suffering from malnutrition.

Lack of Interest in Food or Drink

If you notice a lack of interest in food or drink when other patients eat and drink, visible weight loss, lack of concern about hygiene, this might indicate possible neglect.

Reduced Mobility

Reduced mobility, including difficulty with walking or sitting up without assistance, is a warning sign of neglect by nursing home staff members. Over time, limited mobility can lead to dangerous conditions like pneumonia, blood clots, and bladder infections.

Unattended Medical Needs

A lack of medical equipment in the room might indicate possible neglect. Look for signs of unattended medical needs, including:

  • Missing medications and oxygen tanks
  • No wheelchair at the bedside
  • Dirty shavings on the floor from bedridden resident's overgrown nails
  • No one attending to intake or outtake times for food, water, or drugs
  • A lack of concern about the patient's medical needs
Unsafe Practices

If the resident is observed using heavy objects as pillows or leaning against hazardous surfaces, such as a stove, or eating off the floor, this might indicate possible neglect.

If you notice that the nursing home's resident has no carpet on the floor, but only bare, rough concrete; bedding with holes, tears, and stains; no clothes to wear, this might indicate possible neglect.

Your Lawyer Can File a Complaint and Take Legal Action Immediately

Do you believe that a loved one is a victim of neglect in a nursing care center or assisted living facility? Neglect cases can be difficult and complex because their definition varies from state to state. An attorney can help you file a complaint.

The timeline for filing a neglect case also varies from state to state, so it is important to have an attorney represent your loved one as soon as possible. Your attorney can file a complaint and take legal action immediately.

A nursing home abuse lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires in many states. In some states, the suit must be filed within 30 days after the injury occurs or within one year from the date that reasonable discovery of neglect occurred, whichever is longer.

Special Needs of Nursing Home Residents

According to the Nursing Home Law Center, nursing home residents who suffer from elder abuse or neglect can suffer mental and physical damage that will last a lifetime.

Do you suspect that your loved one has been abused or neglected in an assisted care facility? All qualifying family members can file a claim against the negligent party for any injuries and damages that your loved one suffers as a result.

In addition, you may also be entitled to compensation for emotional distress caused by witnessing the neglect of another person.

If you are ready to initiate civil action against the negligent party, the Nursing Home Law Center may help. Our legal team has successfully represented victims of nursing home abuse and neglect for more than a decade.

Our nursing home abuse lawyers specialize in all areas of nursing home lawsuits, including food poisoning cases, medication errors, sexual assault or abuse cases, physical injuries due to lack of attention, and falls resulting from negligence.

Taking a Stand Against Nursing Home Abuse

Feelings of anger and betrayal are common reactions experienced by many people who discover their loved one is being abused at a skilled nursing facility.

Our attorneys are committed to helping victims of neglect receive the justice they deserve. However, we work on a contingency fee basis - meaning our legal fees are paid only when and if we settle your compensation case.

We can begin working on your case immediately - all we need is a few pieces of information from you. Once we have the required information, our personal injury firm will create a compelling case with evidence to support your claim and ensure full financial compensation for your damages.

Nursing Home Law Center works with personal injury attorneys nationwide, including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Our network of lawyers nationwide allows us to send the right attorney to evaluate your case anywhere in the United States.

Hire a Personal Injury Attorney to Resolve Your Nursing Home Abuse Claim

If your loved one has been injured or you believe that they are at risk for nursing home abuse or neglect, call Nursing Home Law Center at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free case evaluation.

Our affiliated lawyers accept all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury award.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with your nursing home abuse attorney concerning your elder abuse remains private through an attorney-client relationship.


Client Reviews

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric