Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hundreds of thousands of elderly Americans are abused every year. Even more disturbingly, the CDC believes that hundreds of thousands more are abused but do not or cannot report it. Fortunately, as this public health pandemic grows, so does awareness of elder abuse and neglect issues.

Photo by Keith Brofsky/Photodisc / Getty Images

The single most important step you can step toward recognizing nursing home maltreatment is to increase your awareness of its signs and symptoms. Often it can be difficult to distinguish in elderly persons the difference between ill health, old age, and self-neglect - and actual abuse.

Another major problem in the recognizing and reporting of nursing home abuse involves the incapacity of many elderly people to communicate normally. Due to strokes, dementia, and other cognitive conditions, elder persons literally may not be able to tell you they are being mistreated. Therefore, the burden may be fully on you to observe and report signs of neglect.

Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect


  • Lack of basic exercises, including range of motion
  • Open or festering wounds
  • Bedsores
  • Lack of regular baths and personal hygiene
  • Lack of or inadequate oral and dental care
  • Failure to replace diapers and clothing after an episode of incontinence
  • Ignoring or isolating bedfast residents
  • Transferring residents using an insufficient number of staff members
  • Failing to keep residents hydrated
  • Refusing to answer call for help lights and signals
  • Failing to assist residents to the toilet when asked
  • Being left wet or soiled with feces

Emotional abuse

  • Verbal abuse, including yelling, screaming, cursing, browbeating, and insults
  • Treating an elder like a child or infant
  • Depriving an elder of essential services
  • Humiliation
  • Scapegoating or blaming
  • Ignoring the elder
  • Isolating an elderly person from friends and family
  • Isolating an elderly person from other residents or patients
  • Threats to harm or physically abuse an elder
  • Punishing an elder, particularly using bizarre or inappropriate methods such confinement, isolation, tying down, terrorizing, or “gaslighting”

Sexual Abuse

  • Vaginal and rectal bleeding
  • Vaginal and rectal discharge
  • Genital and rectal scarring
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Urinary infections or irritations
  • Bruises
  • Abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Gractures
  • General body soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Rope burns

Financial Abuse

  • Unusual activity in a bank, savings, or investment account
  • Unexplained withdrawals from financial accounts
  • Checks written to a caregiver or financial professional
  • Loans given to a caregiver or financial professional
  • Addition of names to an elder’s bank account or ATM card
  • Unpaid bills
  • Changes to key financial documents, including last will and testament
  • Forged signatures
  • Large “gifts” to a caregiver or financial professional
  • Disappearance of funds, property, assets, or valuables
  • Isolation of the elder by caregiver or financial professional
  • Reluctance or evasiveness by elder to talk about financial matters

Pennsylvania & New Jersey Nursing Home Law Firm

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If you or anyone you know has been a victim of nursing home misconduct, abuse, or neglect, please contact our experienced elder abuse attorneys immediately toll-free at 1-855-462-3330 or by using our online contact form.