Nursing Home Abuse

Elder Abuse May be Unreported

Elder abuse is the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, impairment, or other signs and symptoms. Physical elder abuse may include acts of violence, such as:

  • Striking (with or without an object)
  • Hitting
  • Beating
  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Shaking
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Pinching
  • Burning

The inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind are examples of physical elder abuse, and can result in a number of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Bruises
  • Black Eyes
  • Welts
  • Lacerations
  • Open wounds
  • Cuts
  • Punctures
  • Untreated injuries or sores in various stages of healing
  • Sprains
  • Dislocations
  • Internal injuries/bleeding
  • Broken eyeglasses/frames
  • Physical signs of punishment
  • Signs of being restrained
  • Rope Marks
  • Bone Fractures
  • Broken Bones
  • Skull Fractures
  • Lab findings of overdose
  • Under-utilization of prescribed drugs
  • Resident incident report of being mistreated
  • Resident’s sudden change in behavior
  • Nursing home worker’s refusal to allow visitors to see a resident alone

Nursing Home Abuse: Sexual Elder Abuse

Sexual elder abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with a nursing home resident. Such contact with any person incapable of giving consent is also considered sexual elder abuse. It includes, but is not limited to, unwanted touching, all types of sexual assault or battery, such as rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, and sexually explicit photographing.

Signs and symptoms of sexual elder abuse may include the following:

  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • A nursing home resident’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped.

Nursing Home Abuse: Emotional or Psychological Elder Abuse

Emotional or psychological elder abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or non-verbal acts. Emotional/psychological elder abuse includes, but is not limited to:

  • Verbal assaults
  • Insults
  • Threats
  • Intimidation
  • Humiliation
  • Harassment
  • Treating a resident like an infant
  • Isolating the resident from family, friends, activities
  • Giving a resident the ‘silent treatment’
  • Enforced social isolation

Some of the signs and symptoms that may become apparent with emotional or psychological elder abuse include:

  • Being emotionally upset or agitated;
  • Being extremely withdrawn, non-communicative, or non-responsive;
  • Unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (for example, sucking, biting, or rocking); and/or
  • A nursing home resident’s incident report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated.

Nursing Home Abuse: Neglect and Abandonment Elder Abuse

As a form of elder abuse, neglect may be defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a worker’s obligations or duties to a nursing home resident. Neglect may also include the failure on the part of the nursing home to provide necessary care or life necessities, such as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication, comfort, personal safety, and other essentials included in an implied or agreed-upon responsibility to a resident.

Some signs and symptoms of neglectful elder abuse in nursing home situations include:

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Untreated bedsores
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Unattended or untreated health problems
  • Hazardous or unsafe living conditions/arrangements (for example, improper wiring, no heat, no running water)
  • Unsanitary and unclean living conditions (for example, dirt, fleas, lice, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)
  • A nursing home resident’s incident report of being mistreated.

Abandonment is the desertion of a nursing home resident by a nursing home worker, who has assumed responsibility for providing care to the resident. Some signs and symptoms of elder abuse due to abandonment include the following:

  • Desertion of a nursing home resident
  • Desertion of a nursing home resident at a public location
  • A nursing home resident’s own report of being abandoned.

With any of these matters, especially when there has been a written report filed, it may be best to discuss options with an attorney from Hatcher Law Offices who has experience in handling elder abuse. There may be additional concerns about care that may be monitored.

Nursing Home Abuse: Financial or Material Exploitation

Financial or material exploitation is the illegal or improper use of a nursing home resident’s funds, property, or assets. Examples of this elder abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Cashing a nursing home resident’s checks without authorization/permission;
  • Forging a resident’s signature;
  • Misusing or stealing a resident’s money or possessions;
  • Coercing or deceiving a resident into signing any document (such as contracts or a will); and
  • Improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney.

The following are some specific signs and symptoms of financial or material exploitation:

  • Sudden changes in bank account or banking practices, such as an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the nursing home resident;
  • Inclusion of additional names on the nursing home resident’s bank signature card;
  • Unauthorized withdrawal of the nursing home resident’s funds using the resident’s ATM card;
  • Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents;
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions;
  • Substandard care being provided or bills going unpaid, despite the availability of adequate resources;
  • Discovery of a nursing home resident’s signature being forged for financial transactions, or for titles of his or her possessions;
  • Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming rights to a nursing home resident’s affairs and possessions;
  • Provision of services that are not necessary; and
  • A nursing home resident’s report of financial exploitation.

Nursing Home Abuse: Self-Neglect

Self-neglect, in a nursing home situation, is when the behavior of a resident threatens his or her own health or safety. Self-neglect generally begins with a resident’s refusal or failure to provide him or herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precautions. If a resident who is mentally competent and understands the consequences of his or her decisions, voluntarily decides to engage in acts that threaten their health or safety as a matter of personal choice, the definition of self-neglect does not apply.

Signs and symptoms of elder abuse due to self-neglect include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Untreated or improperly attended medical conditions
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Hazardous or unsafe living conditions/arrangements (for example, improper wiring, no heat, no indoor plumbing, no running water)
  • Unsanitary and unclean living conditions (for example, animal or insect infestation, no functioning toilet, fecal/urine smell)
  • Inappropriate and/or inadequate clothing, lack of necessary medical aids (for instance, eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures)
  • Grossly inadequate housing.


If you recognize any of these critical signs or symptoms for a loved one in a nursing home environment, please contact Hatcher Law Offices to review what you may be able to do for them.