Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing Home

Nursing homes are designed to provide care and nourishment for elderly individuals who can no longer safely live independently. They’re intended to assist with hygiene, nutrition, medical care, physical activity, and social engagement.

Sadly, not every nursing home facility lives up to its claims, and the results can be catastrophic.

Nursing Home Abuse: A Serious Health Problem

Abuse is common anywhere; there is a vulnerable party. Considering that most nursing home residents rely on nursing home attendees and nurses to care for them, this opens them up to the possibility of abuse.

According to research gathered by, nearly one-third of nursing home facilities have been cited for violations of federal standards that could harm residents. Nearly 10 percent of these homes have had violations that pose a risk of serious injury or death.

The research also shows that 40 percent of nursing home residents have reported some form of abuse, while 90 percent say that they or other residents have experienced neglect.

In other words, nursing home abuse isn’t an isolated problem. It’s a rampant issue that deserves careful attention and action.

4 Signs and Symptoms to Look For

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or care facility, you can’t assume that everything is perfect. You need to be on the lookout for common signs of abuse and report it to the appropriate authorities if you suspect any wrongdoing.

Here are some of the signs to keep an eye out for:

1. Unexplained Bruising

Physical abuse isn’t quite as common as emotional abuse or neglect, mainly because it’s easier to spot. But that doesn’t mean physical abuse doesn’t happen. Thousands of nursing home residents are victimized each year, and you should be cautious when you notice something out of the ordinary.

Bruising is one sign of abuse. If you notice marks, ask your loved one for an explanation. If they make accusations, or even if they’re evasive about the question, you might want to look into it further.

2. Sudden Worsening of a Controlled Health Issue

Most nursing home residents have some sort of medical condition. If your loved one has a medical condition that is under control, either with medication or lifestyle changes, but suddenly worsens, don’t automatically assume that it’s a random flare-up. It could be a sign they aren’t getting the proper medication or care to manage their condition.

It’s also possible for health issues to emerge as a result of aging. Be careful about pointing fingers until you’ve done your due diligence and gathered some of the facts.

3. High Staff Turnover

If you’re paying attention, you’ll begin to learn the names and faces of the individuals working at your loved one’s nursing home. If you notice frequent turnover, your internal alarm bells should start to ring.

“Some regular staff turnover is an unfortunate reality at most nursing homes,” says Amy Jo Haavisto Kind, an assistant professor of geriatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “However, if you notice that your loved one’s nursing home constantly is training new staff to the point that no one on the staff knows your loved one — well, it is time to look for a new nursing home.”

4. Specific Complaints

Does your loved one have specific complaints? Are they suddenly reclusive and disinterested in conversation? Do they request that specific individuals no longer care for them?

All of these issues are signs of possible abuse or neglect. Try to dig in as much as possible and gather details about what’s really going on.

Be an Advocate for Your Loved One

When a loved one goes to live in a nursing home, you generally assume they’re making a wise decision that will benefit their physical and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world where things aren’t always as they seem.

Nursing home abuse is all-too-common, and victims aren’t always able to speak up or articulate what’s happening. It’s your responsibility to be vigilant and engaged. If you notice something is wrong, be an advocate, not a bystander.

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