How to Spot the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

In the United States, there are 15,700 licensed nursing homes with 1.4 million residents split up among these long-term care facilities. Although many of the nursing homes in the United States offer excellent care to the elderly population, nursing home abuse is becoming more and more prevalent. Nursing home abuse is especially heinous considering this form of neglect is taken against a population that may not be able to take care of and fight for their own rights. If you or a loved one have potentially encountered nursing home abuse, continue reading this article so that you know how to spot the signs and stand up for your rights.

Nursing home abuse is defined as “an intentional infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, care/service deprivation or punishment that results in physical harm, pain or mental anguish.” A second form of abuse, called nursing home neglect, is defined as a failure, whether it be intentional or not, to provide an individual with the necessary services and care to ensure protection and independence in a long-term care facility. This failure to render adequate services to ensure freedom from harm is the neglectful act.

There are many different types of elder abuse, including, but not limited to: Physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect/abandonment by caregivers, failure to give adequate nutrition, failure to administer medication, and financial exploitation.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

The most important way to protect you and your loved ones from nursing home abuse is to watch out for signs that the abuse is occurring. Some general warning signs include:

  • Frequent arguments or tension between caregivers at the nursing home facility and the elderly person.
  • Changes in personality characteristics or behavior when nursing home employees are present.
  • Changes in personality or behavior after an individual enters a caregiving facility.

Physical Abuse

Some signs of physical abuse in longer-term care facilities include:

  • Unexplained bruises, welts, and other scarring/marks on the individual’s body that may look systematic and unnatural.
  • Broken bones, sprained body parts, dislocation of limbs (especially shoulders and knees).
  • Reports of failure to take medication regularly or extreme variation in times when medication is administered.
  • Signs of restraint.
  • A nursing home facilities refusal to allow solo visitation with the elderly individual.

Emotional Abuse

  • The signs associated with emotional abuse are as follows:
  • Extreme change in the behavior of an elderly person.
  • Fear from the individual resulting from a caregiver entering the room or fear after a family member or friend leaves the facility.
  • Threatening or controlling behavior by the caregiver.
  • Behavior from the elder such as rocking back and forth or mumbling, which is heightened after a caregiver enters the room.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse coming from a nursing home facility is a very serious crime, and it is extremely important to stay vigilant in order to protect the elderly population from potential offenders. Signs of sexual abuse include:

  • Bruises near or around breasts, genitalia, or other private parts of the body.
  • Unexplained genital infections.
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding.
  • Inexplicable removal of clothing.
  • Fear of human contact by the Elder (hugging, etc.).
  • Torn, stained, or bloody clothing.


Nursing home neglect, as we touched on earlier, is the systematic failure to provide an individual with the necessary services and care to ensure protection and independence in a long-term care facility. In order to protect loved ones from neglect by care-givers, or even self-neglect by the elder, there are various warning signs. Severe weight-loss, malnutrition, paleness, dehydration, untreated physical problems, unsanitary living conditions, rancid or unexplained smells, skin infections, and untreated staph infections can all be signs of nursing home neglect by caregivers.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is a major and problematic issue occurring in nursing home facilities today. Financial exploitation of the elderly may include stealing or spending an elder’s money, selling or taking their property, forging their signature on a financial document, or failing to deposit full social security funds. Increasingly, many nursing homes require full access to an elderly individual’s financial accounts, and so abuse is more and more common. A 2000 survey by the NAAPSA (the National Association of Adult Protective Services Administrators) found that financial exploitation comprised 13% of the mistreatment allegations that were investigated.

Financial exploitation is a little bit different than the other types of abuse outlined here. In a nursing home setting, financial abuse occurs even more behind the scenes than the other physical and emotional abuses. This is because an elder may not even realize that the financial abuses are occurring. In order to protect against possible financial exploitation of you or your loved ones, be sure to keep adequate records of an elder’s account balances, and question any unnecessary services or outrageous charges. If a box of tissues is written down as $12 on the patient’s ledger, something fraudulent may be occurring, and it is your job to investigate so that your loved ones are protected.

If you believe your loved one has been abused or is at risk of abuse, contact the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak.  We are highly experienced in litigating nursing home abuse cases, and will advocate for you and your loved ones to better your chances of receiving compensation. We litigate aggressively for our clients, and don’t get paid until you do. To speak with a Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer, call our law offices at (479) 316-0438, or contact us online.