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How to Tell if Your Loved One Is Suffering Nursing Home Abuse

Posted by Steven A. Bagen

Aug 26, 2021 10:19:22 AM

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When you place your loved ones into a care facility or nursing home, it’s hard to imagine any harm coming to them. After all, these places make their living on the care and treatment of elderly individuals. Unfortunately, the mistreatment and neglect of the elderly are all too common, even in nursing homes. 

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 6 people 60 years and older experience abuse each year.1 And in care facilities such as nursing homes, it’s especially common with 2 out of 3 staff members reporting incidences of abuse in the past year. 

With this issue on the rise, it’s understandable to have concerns about placing your loved ones into a care facility where they could suffer such abuse. However, though a common occurrence, there are steps you can take to ensure their safety. Choosing a good nursing home is the first step, but it also helps to understand why and how this type of abuse happens and what signs to look out for.

Why Does Nursing Home Abuse Happen?


Elder abuse, specifically mistreatment in a nursing home, happens when those trusted to care for your loved ones take advantage of them instead.2 Nursing home abuse can happen both intentionally and unintentionally. 

Unintentional abuse tends to occur when staff is under trained and incapable of providing adequate care. Lack of care and neglect is also common when facilities are understaffed. When employees are stretched thin, they become stressed, leading to tasks and duties that get skipped over or done too quickly without much attention. 

Intentional abuse occurs when staff members see an opportunity to take advantage of the residents due to their age and vulnerability. Dementia patients and disabled women, for example, are common targets and victims of elder abuse because of their inability to advocate and fight for themselves. Intentional abuse can also occur when staff is frustrated by their job or work environment and takes their stress out on the residents.


Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse 

Though the word abuse often leads one to think of physical harm, there are many ways in which an elderly individual can be on the receiving end of mistreatment and injustice. Physical abuse is one of the first signs recognized. Still, they can also be traumatized emotionally and sexually and be the victims of neglect and financial exploitation.


Physical Abuse 

Typical signs of physical abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Broken and fractured bones
  • Bruises and welts
  • Burns
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic illness or infections


Common signs of neglect often seen in nursing home residents include the following:

  • Bedsores
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Dirty clothes and unchanged bed sheets
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Worsening infections and injuries

Psychological Abuse

Though emotional abuse is harder to identify, the following are a few signs that your loved one may be experiencing psychological abuse:

  • Agitation
  • Withdrawn behavior or a desire for isolation
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Lack of communication, especially around certain staff members
  • Decrease in self-confidence and self-worth
  • Sudden outbursts and aggressive behavior
  • Fear of being touched
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse

Sexual Abuse

If your loved one exhibits the following signs or behaviors, they may be suffering sexual abuse:

  • Fear of being touched
  • Inappropriate touching and behavior around staff members
  • Bruising, welts, or other physical trauma around the genitals
  • STDs

Financial Exploitation

Financial abuse occurs when staff members take advantage of vulnerable residents by using them for their money. Signs this may be occurring include:

  • New and unexplainable transactions and charges
  • Changes to their power of attorney
  • New credit cards or bank accounts being opened in their name
  • Other cases of fraud
  • Forged financial documents
  • Missing property and belongings


Laws Protecting Nursing Home Residents

Though elder abuse is common, there are laws in place to help stop these incidents from occurring. For example, the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of rights was passed to protect those suffering specifically from nursing home abuse. Additionally, a few other federal and state laws have been enacted to protect the rights of the elderly.3


What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

If you notice any of the above signs or behaviors, as well as suspicious behaviors and actions of the nursing home staff, you should report it immediately. Elder abuse can have serious traumatic consequences, which can lead to medical emergencies and even death. 

As it is a known issue, there are many systems in place to help. You can reach out to local authorities or call the Eldercare Hotline, where you will be connected with local services in your area that can help.4


Steven A. Bagen & Associates Can Help

In some cases, contacting a nursing home abuse attorney may be necessary. Though there are laws in place to protect your loved ones, navigating and understanding the legislation involved can be a challenge. At Steven A. Bagen & Associates, our team has experience working with nursing home abuse victims and their families. We understand the physical and emotional toll this type of abuse can take on your loved ones and are here to help. Contact us today for more information and a free case evaluation.  




3 https://www.nursinghomeabuse.org/nursing-home-abuse/laws/

4 https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/Index.aspx

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Topics: Nursing Home Abuse, Personal Injury Law