Signs of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that more than 20,000 complaints of nursing home abuse are reported each year, but only 1 in every 14 incidents are actually reported to authorities. These numbers are significant because they show that countless residents may be suffering in silence. This is a tragic irony given that nursing homes are charged with helping (and caring for) the most vulnerable members of our society.

Nevertheless, there are telltale signs that loved ones can be aware of in order to discover nursing home abuse, including the following:

Signs of injury – Indeed, falls may occur as elderly residents are prone to lose balance getting out of bed or out of wheelchairs, but loved ones should be wary of bruises or marks suggesting that a person was grabbed, choked or physically restrained.

Poor nutrition – Most residents are supposed to be on a daily nutrition schedule, so if a loved one is malnourished or dehydrated, this also could be a sign of abuse.

Strange behaviors – Mood swings or profound sadness may signal abuse. If a person who is commonly outgoing suddenly becomes withdrawn and sullen be a victim of mental or verbal abuse.

If you are concerned about nursing home abuse, it is prudent to communicate your concerns to facility management. It is also helpful to keep a written log of your observations during each visit. While every instance of impropriety may not rise to actionable abuse, you can make informed decisions about whether to keep your loved one at a particular facility. Also, you can bring your concerns to an attorney versed in elder law.

Source:, Maximizing nursing home safety, October 7, 2012

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