7 Evident Warning Signs of Nursing Home Elder Abuse and Neglect

Updated on April 11, 2019
7 Evident Warning Signs of Nursing Home Elder Abuse and Neglect copy

About 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. An alarming study found that as many as 24 percent of nursing home residents experienced at least one physical abuse situation.

Elder abuse is a growing problem in nursing homes, but a only a few cases get reported. Here are signs of nursing home elder abuse you should note. Read on!

1. Unexplained Injuries

If you notice an elder has consistent broken bones, scratches, head injuries, or bruises, this is one of the biggest indicators of elder abuse. The person may try to do things for themselves because they are neglected and not getting the help they need. The person may also be mishandled during bed transfers causing these injuries.

A typical 100-bed nursing home reports between 100-200 patient falls each year. These are just the reported falls. There are ways nursing homes can prevent falls including training the staff, installing grab bars, and removing environmental hazards like rugs, poor lighting, and debris in walkways.

It’s important you ask questions about any bruise or injury. Ask the senior and multiple staff members to see if you get the same answer.

2. Dehydration or Malnutrition

Malnutrition and dehydration are one of the most frequent signs of abuse. If the nursing home does not have enough staff, residents may not get the fluids and food needed to stay hydrated and nourished. Meals may even get skipped because of time.

A recent study found about 20 percent of international nursing home residents had some form of malnutrition or dehydration. If you see signs of dehydration like cracked lips, dry mouth or sudden weight loss, you need to get help immediately because it can lead to serious issues.

3. Personal Hygiene Issues

Nursing home staff should help all residents with personal hygiene. This includes bathing, brushing hair, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and clipping fingernails. If a person doesn’t get proper care, personal hygiene begins to suffer because patients cannot do these tasks on their own.

Signs of bad hygiene include wearing dirty clothes, body odor, overgrown nails, and smells of feces or urine. 

4. Mobility Changes

Mobility is difficult for most nursing home residents. Nursing home staff should get residents up to exercise and move around as much as possible. This helps improve muscle strength, circulation, and increase balance.

If someone is neglected, he or she may be stuck in bed for extended periods and may lose some mobility. If you notice any change of mobility without a health reason, you need to ask the staff how often the patient is up and out of bed with proper assistance.

5. Mental Issues

Neglect can also present emotional issues for seniors. If you see the resident appears afraid or angry toward the nursing home staff, there may be some underlying emotional issues. Any emotional change should be taken seriously, such as a senior growing distant toward family members and friends.

Other habit changes you should watch for include fear of being alone, repeating behaviors like rocking or mumbling, withdrawing from social events, and refusing to take medication. All of these signs could indicate some form of emotional abuse. The person may even refuse to take care of himself like refusing personal hygiene and not eating.

Emotional abuse may be more subtle and hard to detect than physical abuse. It can take place over time to wear down the senior’s self-esteem and confidence.  The elder may not even know it is taking place at the time.

Any kind of belittling is not acceptable behavior. No person should be embarrassed living in a nursing home. 

6. Bed Sores

If a person lays in one spot long enough, he or she will develop bedsores or open wounds. A senior could even develop frequent urinary tract infections if confined for too long.

Your loved one should get timely help with toileting to avoid skin sitting in urine or feces. Without proper cleaning, skin develops painful sores. Make sure your loved one’s disposable pads are changed consistently.

7. Can’t Get an Answer

If you start addressing some of these physical concerns with staff, and can’t get a proper response, you shouldn’t feel like they are hiding something. The staff should answer your questions or find out the answers. Staff evading questions or unable to answer multiple times about any of the scenarios above is a big red flag.

You should feel like there is a desire to help your loved one. You are paying for a service. A parent losing weight should be addressed and someone should give you an answer about how this issue is being addressed.  

Other Types of Abuse

In addition to physical abuse and neglect, it’s important to follow your gut. If you notice any issues with your loved one’s genitals, including blood stained underwear, you may suspect sexual abuse. This abuse may not always be as obvious, but if you notice any emotional changes like anger or embarrassment, see if you can find any of these signs.

Financial abuse among the elderly is also common. Watch for any unknown expenditures or donations to non-registered charities.

Make sure you watch your loved one’s accounts regularly and take inventory for checkbook, credit cards, and cash frequently. A person suddenly acting secretive about financial transactions is another sign something is not right.

Take Action If Needed

If you suspect a nursing home is not providing the level of care needed, contact your local ombudsman program. You can also discuss the case with an experienced elder law attorney like this law firm. It’s time to empathize with the elderly and get them help.

Nursing Home Elder Abuse Final Thoughts

If you see any of these signs of nursing home elder abuse, it’s time to follow your gut. If you feel something is wrong, you should take an action listed above. Neglect is tragic and no senior should suffer.

Having a loved one in a nursing home can be stressful. Stay on top of the latest health care news to make sure he or she is getting the best care. Visit our website for the latest healthcare news and advice like how to pay for nursing home care.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.