Using The Law To Make Your Life Better

Nursing Home Abuse: Signs of nursing home abuse and how to prevent it

David Sexton

srpthumb-p2720-450x260-no.pngLast week, our blog discussed the key factors you need to consider when choosing the right nursing home.  Once your loved one is in a nursing home, there are specific problems that may arise, such as abuse or neglect of your loved one.  This week's blog post is aimed at helping you identify abuse or neglect against your loved one and will give useful tips to help avoid such issues from ever arising.

It is imperative to know when your loved one is more at risk for abuse - weekends, nights, and holidays.  I call these times "the danger zone."  It is during these times that nursing homes are most likely to have sub-par staff.  This is simply because the "best" employees likely claim the most desirable shifts, which are shifts during the non-holiday week days.  Another reason abuse, neglect, theft, etc. happen during these times is because it is when nursing home residents are least likely to have guests come to visit and it is when nursing homes are most likely to be understaffed.  These sub-par employees know that they can get away with more during "the danger zone," as there are less eyes watching what they do.

It is also vital to know who in a nursing home is more at risk for abuse and neglect.  Unfortunately, those most at risk are bed-bound residents. Once a resident is bed-bound, that person becomes significantly more dependent on the nursing home staff, which makes them a target.  One of the common forms of neglect I hear about is employees leaving bed-bound residents in soiled clothing or linen for extended periods of time.  This is not only unsanitary and, quite frankly, disgusting, it is also demeaning.  If your loved one is bed-bound, you should be extra vigilant and check in often - especially at night!

I have discussed who is at risk, and when they are most at risk, but what exactly are your loved ones at risk for.  During my years of practice advocating for those suffering from nursing home abuse, I have seen just about everything, including:

  • Physical abuse: hitting, slapping, punching, scratching, pinching, pushing, force-feeding
  • Psychological or emotional abuse:belittling, embarrassing, yelling, using foul language, ignoring, threatening, depriving, punishing
  • Sexual abuse:inappropriate touching, coercing to perform sex acts
  • Theft of money or property:stealing or embezzling, failing to put a resident's funds in separate interest-bearing accounts when required


If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected, or if you just want to get an idea of the care your loved one is receiving, there are several things you can do, including being proactive and involved in his or her care.  The easiest thing you can do is simply visit more often, and visit during "the danger zone" discussed above.  Time and time again, I hear stories of care improving when a family starts visiting their loved one more frequently.  I have even heard directly from former employees of well-known nursing homes who have told me that they gave priority to patients who were visited frequently.

While it may not be possible to visit your loved one daily, or even weekly, it is possible to get to know other families of nursing home residents so that they can check in on your loved one when you cannot be there personally.  In return, when you visit your loved one, you can check on other residents.  This is what I call a "web approach" and it intimidates nursing home staff.  When employees know they are being watched, they act more responsibly, which results in less of a chance that your loved will be the target of abuse and/or neglect.

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