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Signs of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

by Jaime A. Heidel
See all TBYIL articles by Jaime A. Heidel

(The Best Years in Life) The decision to move your elderly loved one into a nursing home is never easy. Not only does it mean a radical life change, it can be difficult to trust strangers to care for someone you've been seeing to for months or even years.

The other concern is elder abuse. Elder abuse in nursing homes is disturbingly common. Because seniors transitioning to assisted living facilities often struggle with cognitive and speech impairments, they are more vulnerable to negligent treatment.

If any resident or staff member is causing physical or emotional harm or purposefully neglecting a nursing home patient, this is considered elder abuse.

Abandonment and financial exploitation are also considered acts of abuse.

Here are the most common signs of elder abuse in nursing homes:

1. Unexplainable Injuries

It is to be expected that any senior, regardless of their living conditions, may scratch or cut themselves by mistake, take a fall, or bump into a piece of furniture, causing a bruise.

However, in a good assisted living facility, incidents like this should be very far and few in between. If you notice frequent bruises, welts, cuts, broken bones, or unfamiliar scars on your loved one, he or she may be being abused.

2. Malnourished Appearance and/or Behavior

If your loved one is being neglected, you may notice an unexplained drop in weight and other signs of malnourishment such as dental health problems, easy bruising, and dry skin (dehydration). If you visit at mealtimes, you may notice the senior eating a large quantity of food very quickly, as though they haven't eaten in days.

3. Unmet Physical or Medical Needs

Even if your loved one is not being physically or emotionally abused, he or she may be experiencing neglect. Signs of this include medical needs being ignored (a persistent cough, bed sores), an unkempt appearance, a strong odor, and soiled linens and clothes.

4. Signs of Being Physically Restrained

If you notice rope marks or bruising on the wrists or ankles, this may be a sign that the senior is being physically restrained when you're not around.


5. Signs of Anxiety or Panic

If the senior in your life has always been relatively calm and now seems jumpy, anxious, and withdrawn, especially around a certain resident or staff member, there is a significant chance he or she is being abused.

6. Indications of Sexual Abuse

As unthinkable as it may seem, seniors can become victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes.

Signs of this type of abuse include unexplained blood on clothes and linens, ripped clothing, bleeding or bruising in genital areas, new complaints of pain while sitting or walking, and genital infection (including STDs).

The senior may also show a sudden aversion to being touched or may report sleeping difficulties, including frequent nightmares.

A patient with dementia or other cognitive impairment may not remember the exact details of the abuse, but he or she will still be physically and emotionally affected by it.

7. Staff Limiting or Refusing Visitation Rights

Most nursing homes are not allowed to restrict visitations during normal visiting hours unless under extreme circumstances, such as a legal request from the patient to avoid certain individuals. If you find the staff giving you the runaround about visiting your loved one for any reason, something is amiss.

8. Unusual Financial Activity

Nursing home staff never need raise their hands or voices to be abusive to the elderly persons in their care. If you notice personal items frequently going missing or unusual activity on their ATM or credit cards, your loved one may be the victim of theft and/or financial fraud.

Remember to always trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, despite how things look on the outside, it probably isn't. If you suspect that your loved one is being abused, do not confront the staff while this person is still living at the facility. This can provoke a retaliatory response and further jeopardize the health of that senior.

Instead, get in contact with your local social services agency and find a safe place to transition your loved one. Visit for more information.

See also:

Half the elderly are prescribed drugs linked to death and mental decline

Hospitals and commonly prescribed drugs are killing and harming the elderly

Hospital Stays Trigger Cognitive Decline

About the author:

Jaime is a professional freelance writer with a passion for natural health and wellness. Her website, I Told You I Was Sick, was created to help those living with chronic pain and illness find natural ways to heal.



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