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What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Wagner Reese

Nursing home abuse is more common than most people realize. In a survey of 2,000 nursing home residents, respondents recorded an abuse rate of 44% and neglect rate of 95%. What many people also do not understand is that nursing home abuse is not just physical. This heinous crime takes many different forms and each form has unique warning signs.

Get the facts on the types and signs of nursing home abuse so you know how to keep your elderly relative safe.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse identifies seven types of abuse involving the elderly, including physical, sexual, emotional, financial, neglect, self-neglect, and abandonment. Get informed on each type of abuse so you know what to look out for when visiting your relative in a nursing home.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse of an elderly person is defined as using some type of physical force that can cause bodily harm, ongoing impairment, or pain. This can include striking, beating, shoving, pushing, biting, slapping, shaking, and more. It can also involve using drugs inappropriately, force-feeding the victim, and using physical restraints.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of an elderly person is defined as having non-consensual sexual contact with them. Any type of sexual contact with someone who is unable to provide consent is a form of sexual abuse. This can include unwanted touching, sexual assault, coerced nudity, taking photos of the elderly person while they are nude, and more.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse of an elderly person is defined as inflicting anguish or distress through verbal or nonverbal means. This can include insults, verbal assaults, humiliation, threats, intimidation, and more. Often, emotional abuse involves treating the elderly person like a child and isolating them from activities they enjoy or from friends and family.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse of an elderly person is defined as illegally or improperly using the victim’s assets or other property. This can include forging the elderly person’s signature, taking cash from them, coercing them to sign a document they do not understand, stealing their possessions, and more.


Neglect of an elderly person is defined as refusing or failing to provide the victim with the care they need to live comfortably. It can involve failing to provide the necessities of life, including food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine, hygiene, and more.


Self-neglect is defined as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens their own safety. This can include the elderly person’s refusal to provide themselves with adequate food and water, clothing, shelter, and more. Self-neglect excludes situations in which a mentally competent older person, who understands the consequences of their actions, makes a voluntary decision to engage in activities that threaten their well-being.


Abandonment of an elderly person occurs when someone who is responsible for caring for the victim abandons them, either in a nursing home, in a public place, or somewhere else.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Each type of nursing home abuse displays unique warning signs. Review the signs of each type of abuse so you can ensure your loved one is receiving proper care.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Typical signs that an elderly person has experienced physical abuse may include the following:

  • Unexplained broken bones or bruises
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Marks on the wrists or ankles from ropes
  • Evidence of too much or too little medication
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • The refusal of the caregiver to let the elderly person be alone

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Typical signs that an elderly person has experienced sexual abuse may include the following:

  • Unexplained STDs or genital infections
  • Bruises near the genital areas
  • Underwear that is stained or torn

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Typical signs that an elderly person has experienced emotional abuse may include the following:

  • The elderly person is noncommunicative or withdrawn
  • The elderly person seems agitated or upset
  • The elderly person is exhibiting unusual behavior that mimics dementia

Signs of Financial Abuse

Typical signs that an elderly person has experienced financial abuse may include the following:

  • Changes in the elderly person’s bank account, including large sums of money being withdrawn
  • Changes to legal documents, including the elderly person’s will
  • The disappearance of the elderly person’s possessions
  • Forged signatures on titles or other financial transactions
  • The transfer of assets to someone not in the family

Signs of Neglect

Typical signs that an elderly person has experienced neglect may include the following:

  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Untreated bed sores or other medical issues
  • Malnutrition or dehydration

Signs of Self-Neglect

Typical signs that an elderly person is engaging in self-neglect may include the following:

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, and untreated medical conditions
  • Unsanitary or unclean living areas
  • Inappropriate or inadequate clothing
  • Inadequate housing or homelessness

Signs of Abandonment

Typical signs that an elderly person has experienced abandonment may include the following:

  • Desertion of the elderly person in a public place
  • A failure from family members to visit or contact the elderly person in their nursing home
  • A report from the elderly person that they have been abandoned

Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

If you suspect nursing home abuse, you should report it to the nursing home facility’s staff as soon as possible. Your relative’s doctor will be able to look at their charts and confirm or disprove your suspicions. If your relative’s doctor disproves your suspicions and you still suspect abuse, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney who can help you take the proper steps to obtain justice for your loved one.

If you directly witness abuse in a nursing home, contact the authorities immediately. They will launch an investigation and ensure those residing in the nursing home are protected from further abuse.

Your attorney will work with you to secure evidence to support your claim that abuse occurred. Important documentation to gather includes:

  • Written descriptions of the victim’s injuries
  • Photos of the victim’s injuries
  • Written statements from any witnesses of the abuse
  • Written statements from the victim themselves
  • Notes about any changes in the victim’s behavior

You should never feel like you are overreacting when it comes to nursing home abuse. It’s better to report suspected abuse than do nothing and risk a tragic ending for your elderly loved one or for others who reside in the same nursing home.

Can You Prevent Nursing Home Abuse?

One of the best ways to prevent your elderly loved one from experiencing nursing home abuse is to tour the facilities you’re considering for your relative. Walking through the facilities’ hallways, sampling the food available to residents, observing activities that residents participate in, and speaking directly with staff who may support your loved one are all ways to ensure the facility is a suitable one for your relative.

Additionally, once your loved one is in their nursing home, making regular visits can help ensure your relative is receiving the proper care and attention they need and deserve.

Suspect Nursing Home Abuse? Contact Us Today

If you suspect your loved one has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect, our nursing home abuse attorneys at Wagner Reese are here to help. We can work with you to investigate your suspicions and secure supporting evidence, all in an effort to obtain justice for you and your relative and to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Nursing home abuse is a heinous crime that cannot go unaddressed. Your elderly relative deserves to live a peaceful, dignified life in their nursing home. At Wagner Reese, we can help ensure you and your elderly loved one receive the compensation you deserve for any pain and suffering the abuse inflicted.

Our attorneys draw from our decades of legal experience to provide individualized representation that is tailored to your unique circumstances and goals. We’re responsive and consistently available to clients as well as steadfast legal advocates, both in and out of the courtroom.

If you suspect nursing home abuse, we encourage you to contact us today at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.


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