Signs of Neglect and Abuse in a Nursing Home

Few people are more vulnerable than a loved one in a nursing home facility. Patients can be unable to communicate or move without assistance; they may experience dementia or memory loss; they may require powerful medication. All of these factors can make them targets for neglect and abuse.

Tragically, despite loved ones’ best efforts to ensure they receive compassionate, adequate care, there are too many situations where this does not happen. In fact, some statistics suggest that as many as 5 million seniors are abused every year. If you are concerned about a parent or someone else in a nursing home, it can be critical to watch for signs of mistreatment.

Visible signs of abuse

When you visit your loved one, or if you talk with them using video chat applications, beware of these visible signs that he or she is the victim of neglect or abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises
  • Bedsores
  • Markings on arms and legs suggesting they have been restrained
  • Poorly kept rooms
  • Poor hygiene
  • Heightened fear or apprehension around specific people
  • Agitation or withdrawal

These are signs that a person is the victim of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse or neglect.

Non-visible signs of abuse

Unfortunately, many people are not able to see their loved ones regularly. They may live far away, or the facility may restrict visitors due to the risk of COVID-19. As such, it can be helpful to know the non-visible signs that someone is being hurt.

Pay attention to:

  • Changes in a person’s voice or tone
  • Dramatic, unexplained declines in his or her communication skills
  • Significant decreases in staffing at the facility (meaning there are not enough people to take proper care of patients, answer phones, or be available to discuss a person’s condition, etc.)
  • Reports filed against workers or administrators
  • Instances when workers cannot find your loved one
  • Reports of infections or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Accounts from your loved one

If you observe these or other signs of neglect or abuse in a care facility, bring it to the attention of care providers and facility administrators right away. If this is not effective or they deny any wrongdoing, you may take legal action to hold the facility accountable for acts of negligence or harm against your loved one.


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