How to Spot Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes are legally obligated to provide for the mental, physical, and psychosocial wellbeing of residents. This is what we expect when we leave our loved ones to the care of nursing home employees. Sadly, there is no guarantee that the staff will care for our loved ones properly. If you suspect that staff members are abusing your loved in a nursing home, here are steps you can take to find out for sure.


When you visit your loved one, check his or her body for signs of physical abuse. The elderly can bruise easily, so not all bruising points to abuse. However, if you see wrap-around bruising, especially on your loved one’s arms, it’s a red flag for rough physical treatment. Look for unexplained bruising or bruises in covered areas such as the torso. Sometimes, if an employee is abusing a resident, the employee will hit them where he or she believes no one will see the marks.


If your loved one has to take frequent unexplained trips to the hospital or has broken bones from a fall or other incident, it may be a sign of abuse. Bedsores are preventable with proper care and attention. If a resident suffers from bedsores, malnutrition, or other unexplained injuries, the nursing home may be neglecting its residents.

Be on the lookout for malnutrition by paying attention to your loved one’s health. If he or she appears weaker than usual, with pale or severely wrinkled skin and flaky lips, it may be malnutrition.


Sexual abuse and harassment are the most horrific forms of nursing home abuse. It can leave the victim feeling ashamed, confused, physically injured, withdrawn, and more. A nursing home employee can take advantage of mentally unwell residents, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The resident may be out of his or her right mind and no one will believe the claims of sexual abuse.

Signs of sexual abuse include:

  • Abrupt changes in behavior, such as depression or anxiety
  • Fear of being touched
  • Difficulty sitting or walking
  • Bruising on the inner thighs
  • Bloodied underwear

If you think your loved one is being sexually abused in a nursing home, don’t hesitate to report it to the authorities for a proper investigation.


There are other forms of abuse besides physical abuse. Detecting mental or psychological abuse can be difficult, because it doesn’t leave behind any physical signs. The best way to detect mental abuse is to visit your loved one often and know their normal behavioral patterns. Any sudden changes, such as withdrawal from favorite social activities, can point to underlying abuse.

If your loved one is less talkative, appears depressed, expresses feelings of guilt or shame, etc., an employee may be mentally abusing him or her. Talk with your loved one and listen to the claims he or she makes. Don’t write off reports of abuse as hallucinations due to dementia. Take the time to investigate the situation and be certain it isn’t taking place.


Often, you can see telltale signs of nursing home abuse by scoping out the facility. If the building appears unsanitary (for instance, if the staff leaves spills on the floors for long periods), it may be a sign of neglect leading to slip and fall accidents . Look for residents with unexplained injuries, fall victims left without immediate aid, bedsores, or widespread malnutrition.


Report any suspicious activity or signs of abuse you come across to the police, and then hire a lawyer. At Hill & Associates, our Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys are compassionate about protecting the rights of those who can’t protect themselves. Contact us today for a free consultation.