How to Recognize Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Elderly Woman and daughter

Elder abuse in nursing homes continues to be a widespread and underreported problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 1 in 6 adults over age 60 experience abuse in community settings. This problem has only gotten worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many elders who face abuse by their caregivers do not speak up for fear of retaliation. They may also worry that no one would believe them anyway, that they would be ignored if they spoke up. Sadly, the abuser has the upper hand; that’s how they were able to become an abuser in the first place. If you have entrusted the care of your loved one to a nursing home, it is important to be able to spot this type of abuse.

Here are the most common types of nursing home abuse and their warning signs.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is what comes to mind when most people think of elder abuse.

Warning signs of physical abuse often include:

Emotional Abuse

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is simply inaccurate. Emotional abuse can be very traumatic to experience—and it is one of the most common types of nursing abuse. It may include verbal harassment and bullying, isolation, and/or manipulation.

Common signs of emotional abuse include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Expressing fear of their caregiver
  • Seems shy or quiet around their caregiver
  • Seems more withdrawn than usual
  • Changes in sleeping patterns/habits
  • Refusing to eat, or other changes in eating habits
  • Self-isolating, or spending a lot of time alone in their room
  • Self-neglect, or not taking care of themselves as they used to


Neglect may be deliberate or accidental; either way, it should never happen.

Some of the most common signs of neglect include:

Irregularities and errors with medication may also point to neglect. For example, if there are too many prescription pills left over at the end of the month, that’s a good indication that the caregiver failed to administer your loved one’s medication.

Sexual Abuse

Sadly, nursing homes are not free of sexual abuse. Often, abusers will take advantage of an elderly person’s health conditions, such as dementia, to sexually abuse them.

Signs of sexual abuse include but are not limited to:

  • Increased anxiety, including panic attacks
  • Pelvic or genital injuries
  • Bruises or injury to the inner thigh
  • Bloody or stained underwear
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Trouble walking
  • Difficulty sitting
  • Withdrawing from others

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is an oft-overlooked type of nursing home abuse. Sadly, some caregivers use their positions of power to financially exploit those under their care.

The most common warning signs of financial abuse are:

  • Unusual bank account activity
  • Last-minute changes to a will or power of attorney
  • Missing cash, valuables, and personal belongings

If you recognize any of the above signs, don’t wait to talk to your loved one in private. In the unfortunate event that your suspicions turn out to be true, you will need to get your loved one to safety and report the abuse to the authorities.

To learn more about your next steps, read our blog on “What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse.”

Legal Protection for Nursing Home Abuse Survivors

At the Law Office of Marshall Silberberg, we have helped many Orange County families hold abusers and the nursing homes that protect them accountable. Our attorneys know how to investigate and prove these sensitive cases, while providing compassionate legal counsel to you and your family throughout the litigation process.

Nursing home abuse should never happen. We fight to win victims justice and to show abusers that they won’t get away with their deplorable actions.

Contact us online or give us a call at (949) 565-4281 to schedule a free consultation.

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