Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

As previously discussed, statistics demonstrate that elder abuse and neglect are on the rise in the United States – and sadly, many instances of abuse go unreported. In many instances the elderly fear speaking up because they rely on the abuser for care, financial assistance, or have a close personal relationship with the caregiver. Thus, because this vulnerable segment of our population often remains silent, it’s even more important that we, as friends, family, and loved ones, help protect them by understanding and watching for common signs of nursing home abuse and neglect. After discussing some of these common signs below, we’ll provide some helpful links for assistance and further education.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can arise in numerous ways, ranging from the improper use of restraints to cases of actual assault and battery. Any sign of physical injury is important. Therefore, watch for all types of injury, including the following: broken bones, cuts, bruises, abrasions, grip marks, and burns. Ask for an explanation of the injury and determine if the explanation appears consistent with the physical manifestation of the injury. There are often innocent explanations for accidental injury. However, an explanation which appears inconsistent with the injury, or which sounds unlikely, may be a red flag. Similarly, an inability to provide an explanation raises concerns.

Sexual Abuse

Bruising near the breasts of a woman or near the genital areas of a man or woman can be a sign of sexual abuse. Also watch for vaginal bleeding, vaginal infections, venereal diseases, and torn or bloody underclothing. Abrupt mood changes by the elderly person in the presence of a particular person can also be an indication of sexual or physical abuse.


Although neglect may or may not include the same intent to harm seen in overt acts of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, the consequences of neglect can be gravely harmful to a person. Neglect can be detected in a number of ways. Warning signs include various forms of poor hygiene, such as: lack of cleanliness, the smell of feces or urine, dirty clothing, and dirty bed linens. Also pay special attention to signs of dehydration, weight loss, bedsores, and malnutrition.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be inflicted by physical acts, or by non-physical acts that are designed to intimidate or humiliate a person. A person abused in this manner may show signs of withdrawal and become less responsive to outside stimuli. Also watch for signs of agitation and unusual emotional behavior.

Holding Nursing Homes Accountable

There are few things worse that entrusting an elderly loved one to a long term care facility, only to learn that abuse or neglect has occurred. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we embrace the principle of accountability. We are familiar with the laws governing long term care facilities, and know how to perform a thorough legal investigation. If you suspect that your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a long term care facility, please call us with any questions or for a free consultation. We have experienced attorneys who can help you hold wrongdoers responsible.


Helpful Information and Links

For emergencies, always dial 911, or call local law enforcement.

Hotline for elder abuse: (800) 677-1116

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control – “Elder Abuse” -

Department of Health and Human Services Eldercare Locator – free service which helps the elderly and their families locate community services. Assistance is available by toll free telephone, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., eastern time - 1-800-677-1116. Website:

National Center on Elder Abuse:

Call us at 1.877.928.9147 For A Free Consultation!

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