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Often Overlooked Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

  • Apr 15, 2021
  • The Harr Law Firm

A younger hand holding an elderly hand extended from someone in a wheelchair outdoorsWhen you entrust a loved one’s care to a nursing home, you do so with the faith that they will be properly cared for and treated with the respect they deserve. And while most long-term care facilities are safe, reliable, and caring, there are times when those you entrusted with your family member’s care fail you. When cases of nursing home abuse arise, it’s important to recognize the signs right away, so you can get your loved one somewhere safer, where they’ll be properly cared for. Keep reading to learn the signs of nursing home abuse that often go overlooked.


If your loved one is confined to their bed or a wheelchair due to their condition, it’s important that they are rotated or that they receive help changing their position on a regular basis. This helps to prevent the development of bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers. If you notice that your loved one has begun to develop these sore spots in a nursing home, it’s a sign that they’re not receiving the attention and care that they need. They’re being left unattended for far too long, unable to change their position.

Pressure ulcers are most frequently found on the lower back, tailbone, shoulder blades, back of the head, and heels for those who are confined to a bed. In a wheelchair, sores may develop on the buttocks, spine, shoulder blades, and the backs of arms and legs. Be sure to check these spots when you visit for any signs of a bedsore.

Change in Behavior

You know your loved one. You know their personality, how they interact with others, and their general demeanor. Of course, moving to a nursing home can be a difficult transition for some, so some signs of stress or home sickness are normal. But if your loved one seems anxious, depressed, or aggressive, this could be a sign of emotional abuse.

While it leaves no physical marks on a resident, emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Be sure to observe your loved one’s behaviors closely when you visit. Do they seem anxious around the staff? Do they have a lower sense of confidence and self-worth than normal? If anything seems amiss, start asking questions and don’t stop until you get answers.

Poor Hygiene

Most residents in a nursing home require assistance with their personal hygiene, including changing their clothes and bedding, brushing their hair, and bathing. Make sure your family member’s clothing and bedding are always in good order. Their hair should seem to be well cared for, and their hands and face should be clean.

If you have to schedule visits with your loved one, try to pay attention to the other residents while you’re there too. While staff may have cleaned up your family member and their room before your visit, if other residents appear to have poor hygiene, that may be the true state of things in that nursing home.

Trouble Sleeping

Again, moving to a nursing home can be a difficult change for many of our elderly family members. If they’ve only been in the facility for a week or two, they may still have difficulty sleeping in a new place. But if they’ve been there for some time and they’re still suffering from insomnia or sleep disorders, there may be something else causing it.

Sleep disorders are often caused by anxiety and depression, both of which can develop in the wake of physical or emotional abuse. Your loved one may actually fear sleeping there because of abuse they’ve experienced.

Weight Loss

Unless your loved one has a medical condition that causes weight loss, a sudden decline in their weight after entering a care facility is not a good sign. Nursing homes should be providing carefully balanced and healthy meals to residents based on their dietary needs. If your loved one is losing weight, it could be due to a loss of appetite relating to depression. Or, the staff may be neglecting them and not providing them with the meals that they need. Either way, you should move your loved one out of the facility as soon as possible.

What to Do about It

If you suspect nursing home abuse, the first thing you should do is get your loved one to safety. If you’re uncertain about whether or not abuse is occurring, contact your local branch of Adult Protective Services (APS). They can perform welfare checks of nursing home residents, and you can file complaints with them against the staff and other residents alike.

If your loved one was abused in a nursing home, they deserve recompense for any expenses stemming form that abuse. Contact us to speak to a nursing home abuse lawyer about your case.