Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse Symptoms

Nursing home abuse is a terrible epidemic that is experienced by many families. Once–reputable care facilities are coming under scrutiny, and experiences seem to worsen over time. You should know how to recognize some of the common signs of nursing home abuse and neglect before making plans for a loved one’s extended care.

General symptoms of mistreatment may include frequent arguments or tension between your family member and their caregiver. You may also notice changes in personality or behavior of your loved one. Nursing home abuse and neglect falls into five major categories; physical, emotional, neglect, financial and fraud.

Physical Abuse

One of the most obvious types is physical. Signs of physical mistreatment are often easiest to outwardly spot, such as unexplained accidents or injuries to your loved one. Other signs of physical violence could include the following:

  • Frozen joints
  • Bed sores
  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Sprains or broken bones
  • Bruises and welts
  • Unwarranted use of physical restraints
  • Marks on the skin from being restrained

Some signs of physical mistreatment are not so obvious. Rapid, unexplained weight loss, fearfulness, and broken eyeglasses or personal items can also be signs. In some cases, to prevent you from discovering what is happening, a caregiver may attempt to limit your time alone with your loved one.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is also sometimes seen in nursing homes. If your loved one experiences genital infections, bleeding, unexplained venereal disease, or you notice torn or stained underclothing it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse, but may not always be as easy to spot. You may witness threatening or controlling or belittling behavior by caretakers. If they are experiencing emotional abuse, family members may become withdrawn or non–communicative.

Watch for strange behavior such as sucking, biting, and rocking or sudden onset of dementia or confusion. Emotionally mistreated residents may exhibit low self esteem, depression, anxiety, agitation and mood swings.


Neglect occurs when residents are deprived of basic needs. Types of neglect include withholding food and water, medication errors, poor toileting facilities or inadequate care and grooming. Negligence can also include leaving residents on their own for long periods of time.

While physical injuries can result directly as a result of physical mistreatment, they can also result as a symptom of neglect. Warning signs can include bed sores. Injury or death which occurs shortly after an episode of wandering unattended can be a direct result of staff neglect. Injury of one resident by another can also fall under this category if it happens as a result of absentee staff.

Signs of neglect can be elusive, but very serious. Other things to look for include:

  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Bed sores or other untreated physical problems
  • Dirt, bugs, dirty clothing, soiled bedding
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Insufficient clothing for weather conditions
  • Desertion of the elder at a public place

Financial Exploitation

In some cases, nursing home abuse comes in the form of exploitation rather than direct physical or mental mistreatment. If you have a loved one in a long term care facility, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on their finances. Discuss these issues with an experienced Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer who can examine them from a legal point of view.

Signs of financial exploitation can include significant withdrawals from bank accounts, sudden changes in balance. Items or cash missing from their residence or addition of names to their credit or signature cards should also be monitored. In addition, unpaid bills when there should not be a shortage may be a warning sign.

Healthcare Fraud

Abuse of the healthcare system is another form of exploitation that can happen in nursing homes. Warning signs can include over-medication, under medication, inadequate care when care has been paid for, or duplicate billings for the same service or equipment.

Unfortunately many residents of nursing homes are unable to communicate the violence or negligence they are experiencing. Whether it is because of their normal state, or because they are being sedated or given heavy medication, it is not always possible for them to speak for themselves.

Call our Team of Philadelphia Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

If you suspect that someone you love is being abused, it is imperative to get help from an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer. Injury victims may be reluctant to speak up about the issue of abuse because of embarrassment or threats and intimidation by their abusers. It’s important to gather as much information as possible about the people you suspect, and report to nursing home administrators. Elder abuse and neglect is a criminal offense, and an experienced Philadelphia lawyer will be able to help you build a case and restore the dignity your loved one deserves.