How do I recognize nursing home abuse?

A nursing home resident who has been abused may have physical injuries or may have sudden unexpected changes in behavior, particularly in his or her relationships with nursing home staff. Some nursing home abuse results in damage to or loss of the resident’s possessions.

Active mistreatment of nursing home residents is generally categorized as physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.

A nursing home resident subjected to physical or sexual abuse may have injuries such as cuts, bruises, fractures, black eyes, welts, or ligature marks at the wrists or ankles from the use of restraints.

A victim of sexual abuse may have injuries about their groin, breasts or anus. Their bed sheets or clothing may be torn or marred by blood or other bodily fluids.

Passive mistreatment of a resident is considered nursing home neglect. It is usually reflected in a lack of care, such as dehydration, poor nutrition or hygiene, dirty clothing or bed linens, and failure to provide medication or medical assistance for illness or injury, including bed sores.

Abuse victims also suffer from psychological trauma. They may become easily agitated, withdrawn and nonresponsive, or disinterested in activities they usually enjoy. Emotional mistreatment, like verbal abuse, isolating (locking a resident in their room) or shunning, can also cause sudden psychological changes in an abuse victim.

In some cases of abuse, personal property like eyeglasses, hearing aids, clothing, photos, clocks, or TVs, may be damaged.

Sudden or unexpected changes in a nursing home resident’s bank account, will, property deeds or other financial documents may indicate financial abuse.

In all cases, if a nursing home resident says they are being hurt or abused, their complaint should be taken seriously and investigated.

The National Center on Elder Abuse provides more information about the types and signs of abusive treatment common among senior citizens.