Red Flags in Nursing Homes: Signs Your Loved One Is an Abuse Victim

Abused patients may display a variety of symptoms depending on the nature of the abuse. However, there are several red flags a person can look for to spot abuse.  Nursing homes owe a duty of care to elderly patients. When facilities become understaffed and overbooked, poor working conditions pave the way for neglect and abuse by fatigued staff. When nursing home abuse occurs, there are often early symptoms that may go unnoticed. Keeping an eye out for these signs can help family members protect their vulnerable loved ones from further harm. 

Signs of Abuse in Nursing Homes

Victims of abuse often don’t speak up out of fear or shame. Often, the responsibility falls on loved ones to uncover and report cases of abuse. Signs that an elderly patient is experiencing physical abuse or neglect include dehydration or malnutrition, significant weight changes, bedsores, untreated injuries or frequent injuries, poor cleanliness or grooming, bruising or bloodied clothing, changes in mood or withdrawn behavior, acquiring infectious diseases, and unexplainable/ unexpected death. 

In addition to physical abuse and neglect, patients are vulnerable to verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and financial abuse. Symptoms of these kinds of abuse are often similar to those of physical abuse. Patients experiencing financial abuse may display other symptoms, such as unpaid bills, significant new debt, loss of assets and possessions, missing cash, overdrawn bank accounts, and missing checks. Victims of financial abuse are often also vulnerable to identity theft. 

Common Injuries of Abuse Victims

Patients experiencing abuse are hurt in a variety of ways. In addition to emotional distress, injuries from abuse or neglect may include broken or fractured bones, head injuries, bruises, progressive bedsores, illnesses that require hospitalization, and malnutrition. In some cases, abuse can lead to death in nursing homes. 

Types of Elder Abuse

There are many different kinds of abuse family members can look for.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse, or financial exploitation, occurs when a person steals financial resources from a patient. Usually, the abuser is a person caring for or close to the victim. Elderly persons are uniquely vulnerable to this exploitation as they are often in the care of others. Financial abuse can escalate to identity theft and theft of other assets. 

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse goes underreported in nursing homes. This is because many victims experience feelings of shame surrounding the abuse. In nursing homes, sexual abuse typically occurs at the hands of caregivers or other residents. 

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse entails acts of violence toward a patient. These acts can include intentionally inflicting injury, withholding necessary resources, and threatening violence. Physical abuse can be inflicted by staff members or other residents. 


Staffing shortages can lead to neglect even in the most well-intentioned facilities. When staff members are fatigued or have too many patients to care for, neglectful behaviors occur. Neglect in nursing homes includes failure to distribute medication, failure to provide assistance, and neglecting dietary needs and restrictions. 

Abuse in nursing homes can lead to health declines and death in patients. Loved ones or victims of abuse can seek damages in a nursing home abuse claim. Filing a claim helps to hold responsible facilities and parties accountable and prevent future instances of abuse.