If you have an elderly family member that resides in a nursing home, you worry about things. One of them is their health and safety. You visit them on a regular basis like you normally do.

During one of these visits, you notice something alarming. Or you may notice subtle signs that seem like a recurring theme. Either way, concerns of nursing home abuse may be something that you need to address as soon as possible.

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In this guide, we will discuss the nine signs of nursing home abuse that you need to look out for. It is important – even if it means life and death – that you know these signs and be able to report them accordingly. Because this is the health and well-being of someone who is important to you in life.

Let’s waste no time and get started with this guide. First, let’s provide you with an overview.

Nursing home abuse: What types exist?

There are a few different types of nursing home abuse that exist. They include physical, emotional/mental, financial exploitation, and neglect. Each year, 5 million American seniors experience such abuse.

One quarter of them (according to family members) occur in a nursing home. That is an alarming figure to know about. It is important that it needs to be stopped regardless of what type it may be.

Regardless, it is important to note that such abuse can have a negative effect. Not just on your elderly family members but other residents as well. Such abuse can lead to legal issues as well.

Criminal penalties for abusers are likely. The facility itself will also face legal penalties as well including lawsuits from families of residents who have been abused. That’s why it is important for nursing home management to hire staff members that are able to perform their duties with care and compassion.

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What are the 9 signs of nursing home abuse?

We will now go over the list of the 9 signs of nursing home abuse. It is important to know what they are and what evidence is displayed to confirm it. Let’s take a look now at the following list below:

Unexplained injuries

If you notice any subtle or obvious signs of injury, it’s important to ask questions. Such injuries that are unexplained or even unusual may be a sign of nursing home abuse. These can include but are not limited to bruises, cuts, and fractures.

Behavioral changes

This is a common sign regarding abuse as a whole. But mostly, emotional/mental abuse will likely be the cause of such behavioral changes. It can include an elderly individual acting in a way that seems out of character.

Self-neglect (if it’s uncharacteristic) could also be another sign to look out for. Such behavioral changes may range from subtle to obvious. To the untrained eye, subtle behaviors may fly under the radar.

Fear, withdrawal, and aggression are typical signs of behavioral changes. That is when you need to sound the alarm and figure out what’s going on.

Missing funds or unexplained transactions

Financial exploitation is common amongst elderly individuals. They can be committed by an individual who is part of the nursing home staff. That’s why it is important to monitor any bank accounts an elderly individual may have if possible.

You will be able to monitor any activities that are considered baseline. Once you have a good idea, it will be easy to spot any transactions that may seem out of the ordinary.

Poor hygiene and nutrition

One of the clear signs of nursing home abuse and neglect involves poor hygiene and nutrition. The signs include weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration. Not to be outdone, you may notice garments, bedsheets, and similar items looking dirty, unkempt, and unsanitary.

Elderly individuals may also look unkempt and unclean as well. Their clothes may also be dirty or stained. Keep in mind that nursing home staff are responsible for the hygiene and nutrition of their residents.

Changes in living conditions

Tying into our previous sign, you’ll notice that the living conditions are not as ideal. Nor are they sanitary by any standards of a nursing home. This will indicate a lack of proper care and must be addressed accordingly.

Staff avoidance

If anything, elderly individuals avoiding staff members is a clear sign of nursing home abuse. Especially if it’s individuals they believe are untrustworthy. Noticing this sign will give you an idea of who may be possibly abusing your elderly family member.

At this point, you may need to notify supervisors of the nursing home staff. Let them know about your elderly family member’s concerns about individuals who may be abusing them. It may also lead to taking matters into your own hands legally (if push comes to shove).

Medication mismanagement

If medication is mismanaged on a regular basis, this can be a sign of abuse. Occasional occurrences may be due to human error or gross incompetence. However, repeated incidents may be a sign of abuse and neglect.

Incorrect dosages that are repeatedly administered may also be a possible sign. It is important to make sure that your senior loved one is getting the proper dose of any needed medication. If you need further confirmation of this sign in particular, be sure to contact their doctor as soon as possible.


Elderly individuals need social interaction just like everyone else. Isolating them from such activity can play a negative role on their mentality. As such, if you notice that their social interactions have decreased, they may have been isolated against their will.

Individuals who reside in a nursing home can socially interact with others if they choose to do so. Sure, they have a choice not to socialize with others due to personal preference. But if the lack of social interaction appears uncharacteristic, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

A lack of proper medical care

Medical care for elderly individuals – be it emergency or routine – should be performed accordingly. The lack of proper care can lead to serious injury, illness, and even death. If your senior loved one is a victim of improper medical care, this can be a huge disaster for the nursing home and the physician or medical facility.

That’s why you will need to be aware of their medical history as next of kin. Please note that you must abide by confidentiality agreements or anything related to the protection of medical information regarding your senior loved one.

What should you do if you notice any possible abuse signs?

If you first spot any signs of nursing home abuse, it’s always a good idea to ask questions. The reason for this is to open up a line of communication with your senior loved one. Abuse may be difficult to prove without solid evidence.

Any concerns about nursing home abuse can be first addressed by staff members. If necessary, you may need to contact a lawyer regarding obtaining any proof that abuse exists. Some nursing home facilities may have security systems that can record activities going on at all times.

However, the abuse may occur in the living quarters of your senior loved one. If you need to set up a recording, you may do so (assuming you follow the legal channels). In two-party consent states, this can be quite difficult to do.

At that point, consulting with an attorney on what legal options you may have are important. Protecting your senior loved one must be important – even if it means taking certain measures that raise possible legal concerns of your own.

What to do when abuse is confirmed?

It should also be a good idea to consult with your attorney regarding civil suits. You can sue the facility based on the abuse your loved one has suffered. This may include personal injury, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other grounds that can be tied to the lawsuit itself.

This is a serious situation that you cannot take on alone. Hiring an attorney that specializes in elder abuse will be your best option – even if they are slightly farther away from your local area.


Nursing home abuse is serious. If you notice these nine signs and can confirm it, you need to take action as soon as possible. The health and safety of elderly individuals is more important than you think.

While taking the necessary legal actions, you should also make sure your senior loved one is in a safe place for the time being. Make sure they are out of the facility where the alleged abuse took place. If they end up in an arrangement with other family members, they should be people who you absolutely trust the most.

Elderly individuals do not deserve abuse. And the families of these individuals should not have to face the stress and worry that comes along with it.