How To Sue And Report Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes are supposed to be safe places, where the elderly and disabled can go when they need care and support. Unfortunately, sometimes these places tend to be hotbeds of neglect and abuse.

In the United States, reports show that 1 in 5 adults above the age of 60 experienced abuse in 2021. A good number of these happen in community and institutionalized settings. Sadly, many of these victims do not receive help and suffer in silence.

If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, it is important that you report these suspicions to the authorities as soon as possible. If you delay reporting, it may be too late for your loved one to recover from their injuries or for them to receive compensation for their suffering.

The following guide provides an overview of the prevalent nursing home abuse situation, as well as nursing home neglect signs to look out for if you suspect that your loved one is having problems in a nursing home.

What Is Considered Nursing Home Neglect?

Are you wondering “what is neglect in a nursing home?” Nursing home abuse/ neglect includes any action or inaction by a caregiver or other staff member that causes harm to a person living in a nursing home.  

According to the Ombusdman Resource Center, nursing homes are required by law to provide care that meets the needs of each resident. This means that nursing home abuse is not only illegal but also a violation of human rights.

Nursing home abuse can occur in any type of facility: private, public, or assisted living facilities.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse can take many forms: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; neglect; financial exploitation; and overmedication. Staff members or other residents can commit it.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse occurs when someone hits or otherwise hurts another person with the intent to cause injury or pain. It may also include restraint without consent or physical harm caused by medical treatment that doesn’t meet accepted standards of care.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves threats or harassment intended to cause fear, humiliation, or embarrassment in someone else—including threats of abandonment by a caregiver. 

Emotional abuse might include making fun of someone’s appearance, withholding information about their condition or prognosis, telling them they have no reason to live, or forcing them to take medications against their will.

It also includes verbal insults, threats, and intimidation directed at elderly residents. This type of abuse also covers isolating residents from their families and friends.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual nursing home abuse occurs when a resident is forced into sexual activity against their will—often by someone in a position of authority over them like a nurse or doctor—or when an elderly person is unable to give consent due to dementia or another mental condition that affects their ability to make decisions about sexual activity.

Sexual abuse can include inappropriate touching or fondling by staff members or other residents living in the nursing home, requests for sex from staff members in exchange for gifts/privileges, and lots more.


Neglect is the failure of staff members to provide adequate care for the health needs of an elderly resident under their supervision. Neglect can range from failing to provide sufficient food or water, to extreme cases where a staff member has abused an elderly resident by failing to report signs of elder abuse that he or she observed within the facility.

Nursing home neglect and abuse is a serious, and sometimes fatal, problem. Unfortunately, most instances of nursing home abuse go undetected because many victims are unable to report their own abuse or alert others that something is wrong. 

That’s why it’s so important for family members and loved ones to monitor the quality of care provided by nursing homes and other facilities where loved ones receive long-term care or rehabilitation services. Once neglect and abuse can be proven, the victim or their family can report, sue and get compensation.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics

The statistics about nursing home abuse are shocking. According to data by The Government Accountability Office, as many as 82 percent of nursing home facilities inspected between 2013 to 2017 did not have adequate facilities in place for infection prevention and control.

In 2014 alone, more than 14,000 cases of abuse were reported in nursing homes across the country. Of these cases, 66% were women and 50% are elders with mental health problems and are particularly susceptible to abuse or neglect.

The following are some key facts about this situation according to data by WHO:

About 2 in 3 nursing home employees say that they have committed abuse on facility residents in the past.

More than 23 percent of all substantiated reports in institutionalized settings involved physical abuse; 2.6 percent were related to sexual abuse; 23.6 percent involved neglect;  more than 13.8  percent were related to financial exploitation; and 65.9 percent were related to emotional maltreatment.

Why does it seem like nursing home malpractice is going on unchecked? It’s often because the victims have no one to advocate for them or protect them from harm. Unfortunately, many elderly people have little family support, as their children have moved away or are too busy with their own lives.

Some victims of nursing home abuse do have family members who care about them, but those caregivers may not know what to look for or how to handle the situation when they find it.

What Are The Signs of Nursing Home Neglect/ Abuse?

So, what is considered neglect in a nursing home? It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse. If you are able to prove abuse and neglect by nursing home operators, you can sue for damages on behalf of your loved one and get compensated. 

Whether you have someone in a nursing home presently, or plan to take advantage of these services sometime in the future, to protect against nursing home malpractice, here are just a few signs to keep an eye out for:

Unsanitary Conditions

If your loved one is living in a nursing home and they are not clean, then it may be an indication that they are being neglected. You may see dirt on their clothes or body, or they may have unshaved hair or nails. If the facility does not provide adequate hygiene products for residents, then this can also be a sign that they are being neglected.

Mental Decline

If your loved one has suffered from mental decline due to lack of care at a nursing home, then it could be an indication that they are being neglected by their caregivers. They may become confused and disoriented when they are supposed to be receiving care from their nurses or doctors. Your loved one might start acting strangely and forget things easily like where they put things in their room or what time it is when asked by family members or friends visiting them at the facility.

Poor Nutrition

When nursing homes don’t provide enough food for their residents, it can result in malnutrition or undernourishment which can lead to other health problems such as osteoporosis and anemia. To prevent this from happening, it’s important for families to check up on their loved ones and look out for unexplained weight loss.

A person’s weight should remain consistent while they’re in the hospital or nursing home. If a patient loses 10 percent or more of their body weight, it could be a sign that they aren’t getting enough food.

Bruises and Cuts

Bruises can develop from falls or from being hit by staff members or other patients; cuts may result from poor grooming habits (e.g., shaving cuts on shaven patients). The location of these injuries can also be telling—for example, bruises on the face or head could indicate an assault by another patient or staff member who doesn’t know how to safely restrain someone who is out of control.

Inadequate Clothing

Nurses and doctors should check their patient’s body temperature every few hours, so they can be sure that the person isn’t getting too hot or cold. If you see that your loved one is always wearing the same clothes or has no socks on their feet during the winter months, this could be a sign that they’re not being monitored properly by staff members.

The signs of nursing home neglect are often subtle, making it easy for loved ones to miss them. But once you determine that abuse and neglect are taking place, don’t waste any time in taking the matter up with the nursing home authorities. If you are not satisfied with their reaction, then you may want to consider suing.

5 Steps To Sue And Report Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse

Whether it was a one-time thing or a chain of events, if you or your loved one has been a victim of neglect and abuse while in a nursing home, you may be able to sue the facility for negligence. 

Nursing homes have a duty to provide quality care to their residents, and when they fail to meet this standard, they can be held responsible for any injuries or damages that result.

To win a nursing home negligence lawsuit, you must prove that the facility’s employees caused the injuries by failing to provide adequate care. To do so, you should:

  1. Watch And Record Signs Of Abuse

You may be able to spot signs of abuse or neglect by watching your loved one closely over time. If you notice any changes in their behavior or moods, keep track of those things so you can report them later if necessary. 

As already explained, you should look for signs like puzzling mood swings, unexplained bruises or cuts, or unexplained weight loss or gain—these could be signs of physical abuse. You should also keep an eye out for any unusual behavior from staff members around your loved one (like cornering them alone).

  1. Look for Inconsistencies in their Nursing Home and Medical Records

Another thing that you should do is look through all of the medical records carefully. You want to make sure that everything is consistent with what happened at the nursing home. For example, if your loved one was given medication twice every day, then there should be two entries in their charts every day indicating that they were given medication.

If there are inconsistencies in how many times medications were given each day or how many times they were supposed to be given, then it means that something went wrong with the administration of medications at that facility.

  1. Get Your Loved One Medically Evaluated

If you suspect nursing home negligence, it is important that you take action immediately. One of the most important steps in determining if your loved one was a victim of nursing home abuse is getting him or her medically evaluated. If injuries were sustained as a result of neglect or abuse, this evaluation will help determine what type of treatment should be provided.

The records of this medical examination will also come into play when you sue the nursing home facility.

  1. Take Photographs

You can also take photographs of any areas where your loved one is being neglected or mistreated by staff members at the nursing home. These photos should show any signs of neglect or abuse, such as bruises or lacerations on their bodies, bed sores, or other injuries caused by poor treatment from staff members at the facility. 

If possible, include photos of these injuries as well as photos of any other issues related to poor treatment at the facility (such as dirty rooms, unclean food trays, and so forth). Then try to get these photos and lists notarized; this will help establish their credibility in court.

  1. Report to Ombudsman

If you suspect that your loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. However, before you pursue legal action, it’s important to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities. 

You can take your concerns to the facility administrator or use the reporting page on the National Center on Elder Abuse website. This agency will investigate your claim and determine whether or not any violations occurred. If they find that violations did occur, then they will report their findings to the Ombudsman Program.

The Ombudsman’s office has staff who investigate complaints about nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. They also frequently investigate complaints about nursing homes on behalf of families who may not know how or where to file a complaint themselves.

File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

In addition to the tips covered above, you will strengthen your case further if you have:

  • Medical records documenting injuries, hospital visits, and other symptoms of abuse.
  • Evidence that staff members were aware of the abuse but failed to report it, such as emails or phone logs.
  • Witness testimony from family members, staff members, or other residents who saw abuse occur or knew about it.

However, the key is to engage legal representation as early as possible. Your lawyer can advise you on how best to gather evidence and handle negotiations with the nursing home’s insurance company and attorneys. They may also be able to help negotiate settlements if you decide not to sue.

Final Thoughts

No senior should have to stay in an unsafe or uncaring living environment.

If you know an elderly person that is receiving care at a nursing home, it’s important to monitor them for signs of abuse or neglect. Even if they can’t talk, there are still things you can do to figure out if something is wrong. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect so you can act quickly if you suspect someone isn’t getting the care they need.

Injuries or Abuse at a Nursing Home: Who Pays?

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