How to Spot Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse

Did you know that over 30% of elderly patients who live in a nursing home experience some form of abuse?

Imagine what it’s like to pick up a call and find out your family member was a victim of nursing home negligence. No one wants to imagine the torture and trauma some of these elderly nursing home experience.

The best way to prevent nursing home negligence is to stay alert and informed. We want to make sure your elder family members are protected.

In this article, we will discuss the types of nursing home abuse and how to spot them. Read on and take the first step to prevent and stop nursing home negligence.

What is Elderly Abuse?

Elderly abuse is defined as the intentional act to cause harm or failure to respond to an act of harm. The relationship between the caregiver and the patient has an expectation of trust. If the trust is broken, it can put the elderly in harm’s way.

Elderly abuse happens everywhere it’s not restricted to a nursing home. It can happen in their own house by a family member, and at an assisted living facility.

Nursing home negligence happens regardless of age, race, sex, and religion. Among the elderly 60 years of age and older, women are more likely to be victims of abuse, but some men are as well.

The risks increase for those patients who suffer from a disability, have memory-related illnesses or can’t take care of themselves.

Types of Elderly Abuse

The elderly who are victims of nursing home negligence can be subject to one or more types of abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse against the elderly is pretty straightforward. This occurs when a caretaker inflicts physical harm.

It happens in the form of hitting, kicking, shoving, or even burning. The abuser could also be giving the victim medication that wasn’t prescribed with the intention of subduing or other damage.

Physical abuse also includes being tied to their wheelchair or bed. And locking them up in their room.

Sexual Abuse

According to a report, over 1,000 nursing homes were cited for their failure to properly report or investigate sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse can happen in many different ways. The elderly person could be forced to watch pornography, take their clothes off, or inappropriately touch their caretaker. In most instances, the victim is raped as well.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse often comes in the way or intimidation, threats, and yelling. The caretaker might also humiliate the elderly by talking down to them or ridiculing them.

This type of nursing home negligence causes the elderly to become withdrawn and fearful. They feel terrorized and alone.

The caretaker might also control what the person does and who they talk about leaving them in fear.

Identity and Health Care Fraud

Unfortunately, nursing home negligence can also lead to health care fraud. The elderly are also exposed to having their health care benefits exploited.

They could be charging for treatments but not providing it. Sometimes they send double billing for the same service.

These also include getting overmedicated or undermedicated. The person under-medicating them could take the medication and sell it for a profit. After all, caretakers only make about $12.00 an hour, which means the abusive ones are out for an easy prey.

And on occasion, they commit Medicaid fraud.

Financial Exploitation

Due to some of the elders’ vulnerability and dependence in their caretakers, this puts their personal property at risk.

Financial abuse occurs when someone uses their credit cards or dips into their bank accounts without permission. The scammer might also forge signatures to get access to funds.

It also occurs when someone overcharges the elderly for a service. Or tries to collect donations for a fake charity.

Personal Neglect

Personal neglect also happens when the caretaker fails to provide the person with basic care and hygiene.

This type of nursing home negligence is either intentional or unintentional. Sometimes nursing homes are understaffed and will fail to provide the appropriate level of care to each person.

Personal neglect is also intentional. The caretaker simply ignores the needs of the person and fails to fulfill their obligations.

How to Recognize the Signs

If you ever suspect your elder family member is a victim nursing home negligence you should know how to spot the signs.

Signs of Physical Abuse

The first thing you should do is question any unexplained bruises on their bodies. Check for scars and welts, and notice if they appear to be symmetrical.

Check with a physician for evidence of any dislocations, sprains, or broken bones. Also, check their wrists and ankles for signs of restraining marks.

Check for reports of stating that the patient refuses to take their medication properly or accidental drug overdose.

There might be more clues in their room such as broken or damaged items, especially if the patient made attempts to get free.

If the caretaker refuses to leave you alone with your family member might also be a sign.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

The signs of sexual abuse include bruises around the genitals or breasts. There might be some vaginal or anal bleeding. And their underwear could be torn or have blood stains.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

If you observe your family member seems always anxious of scared for no reason, it might be a sign of emotional neglect.

Ask them if they have been trouble sleeping. They might also appear depressed when before they used to be a lively person.

Other signs include sudden mumbles and lowering their voice, and maybe rocking back and forth in despair.

Signs of Health Care Fraud

The best way to figure out if healthcare fraud is taking place is by going through all of the medical bills. Are there duplicates of the same bill for the same service.

Check that the charges match the dates when the person went in for treatment. Go through all of the medications and call their physician to make sure they were the ones who prescribed it.

Make sure all of the medical bills show evidence that they have been paid for in full.

Signs of Financial Exploitation

Look for suspicious withdrawals or transactions from their bank account. Also, ensure there are no powers of attorney or title transfers signed.

Check in with utility and service providers to make sure there are no unpaid bills. Also, check for suspicious subscriptions and unnecessary goods.

Signs of Neglect

If you suspect of personal neglect, the signs are easy to spot. Watch out for unexplained excessive weight loss, signs of dehydration and malnutrition.

Does the person seem unbathed, dirty, and unkempt? Also, check their bedroom and look out for soiled bedding, dirty room, and unwashed clothes.

If the person is disabled, watch out for bedsores or other signs that indicate they have been neglected.

Other Threats

Aside from abuse in their nursing homes, there are other illnesses and infections that threaten the elderly.


Pneumonia is very common in nursing homes due to the increased exposure. When patients suffer from cardiopulmonary conditions, diabetes, lungs problems, and lay down for long periods of time, it increases their chances of contracting pneumonia.

The symptoms of pneumonia include cough, chills, and fever. However, seniors don’t usually display these symptoms, which makes it difficult to diagnose.

Antibiotics are necessary to treat pneumonia.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections or UTIs are bacterial infections, and in the elderly, they are difficult to diagnose. Young people experience pain while they urinate, but this isn’t the case for seniors.

In seniors, UTI symptoms present as incontinence and sudden change in behavior.

The elderly who live in nursing homes are at a higher risk of UTIs due to the constant use of catheters and because they don’t drink enough fluids.


MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a skin infection that enters the body through a cut or sore. In nursing homes, it’s also more common to enter the body through a catheter or a feeding tube.

Once it enters the bloodstream, it’s quite difficult to treat with antibiotics. The symptoms include:

  • Skin rash
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Skin abscesses
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue


This is another illness that poses a great threat to seniors living in nursing homes.

Since they have weaker immune systems, the typical symptoms of influenza can turn into pneumonia and their lives could be at serious risk.

The symptoms include cough, chills, fever, but elderly patients show symptoms differently. Since influenza spreads around by sneezing and coughing, it’s easy for many residents to become ill.

Staph Infection

This type of infection is closely related to MRSA. This bacteria tends to cause food poisoning like symptoms.

Staph acts fast, the patient will experience vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, and low blood pressure. This infection usually doesn’t cause a fever.

Although this infection can resolve quickly, it can have devastating results for seniors.

Patients With Higher Risk of Abuse

Elderly patients who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and physical disabilities have a higher chance of being victims of abuse.

In a study conducted in nursing homes, it showed almost 50 percent of elder citizens suffering from dementia were victims of abuse.

Patients who have physical disabilities and depend on a caretaker to perform simple tasks are also an easy target. Abusive caretakers might take advantage of the deteriorating mental state and abuse their power.

They might take advantage of the person financially because they will not remember if they signed or gave out any personal information.

While elderly abuse is in no way excusable, some caretakers experience challenges.

Taking care of patients who suffer from dementia and physical disabilities is a challenging job, which results in stress and frustration.

Caregivers should also seek professional help if they fear they might harm their patient.

How to Prevent Nursing Home Negligence

No one imagines receiving a phone call and learning their elderly family member has been a victim of abuse. And while it can often be impossible to predict which individuals are capable of evil-doing, you could take some steps to prevent it.

Before you pick a nursing home, you should take many factors into consideration.

Take a look and ask questions about their staff. Are they overworked? Also, make sure you get the correct staff to patients ratios.

While you’re touring nursing homes observe how the place looks, is it dirty or unkempt, does it have weird smells. You’re allowed to question those things.

Observe how the staff interacts with the patients. Do the patients seem comfortable or scared? Watch their body language.

Also, read the reviews and check for any previous nursing home negligence allegations.

What You Can Do

If you suspect nursing home negligence, there are a number of resources available to help.

Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse and you will find a number of resources narrowed down by state.

You can also contact a social worker or the person’s primary physician. And if you suspect the person’s life is in immediate danger, you should call 911.

Nursing Home Negligence Wrap Up

It is unfortunate that so many senior residents in America are victims of nursing home negligence.

Nursing home abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, and financial. The more you know about it, you can prevent or stop it.

Do you suspect one of your family members is a victim of nursing home negligence? Do you think you might have a caseStephen Babcock is standing by to help you.

Your case — and your future will be our top priority.  When we meet with you, we will review your case with you for free and after you hire us you will have Stephen’s 100% Client Satisfaction Guarantee.

If you have any questions about this article or want to contact us, call Stephen at (225) 500-5000 or contact us here.

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– Stephen Babcock