Types and Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse

It’s estimated that around 44% of nursing home residents are abused every year. Out of those abused, 1 in 11 is harmed to the point of either critical physical condition or death. Unfortunately, due to fear of retaliation, many victims never speak out about their abuse, which leads to a number of cases going unreported.

Despite the rather high number of nursing home abuse cases, there is a lack of press coverage concerning the abuse. This abuse comes in many different forms and has profound negative effects on both nursing home residents and their loved ones. It’s time that an end be put to this senseless and violent behavior, which is plaguing nursing homes all throughout The United States. To help spot nursing home abuse, here are the types of abuse and the symptoms that accompany them.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse in nursing homes ranges anywhere from physically hitting or being rough with a resident to neglecting a resident.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when caretakers make unwelcome sexual advances or remarks toward nursing home residents. This type of abuse includes sexual advances and remarks toward cognitively-impaired individuals who are unable to express themselves adequately.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse runs the gamut from shouting at and talking down to residents, to humiliating and shaming residents. This type of abuse can have a severe impact on a patient’s behavior.


Whether done purposely or inadvertently, neglect includes any instance in which a patient’s needs are not met. From not providing food and water, to neglecting the maintenance of a resident’s personal hygiene, if a resident has unmet needs, that resident is suffering from neglect.

Resident on Resident Abuse

This abuse occurs when nursing home workers allow residents to physically, psychologically, or sexually harass each other.

Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse

Signs of nursing home abuse run the gauntlet from physical symptoms to emotional and psychological symptoms. It is important to notice these symptoms so that a person suffering from abuse can be helped in a timely and effective manner. Though these symptoms are not always a clear sign that abuse has occurred, they should be taken into consideration.

Physical Abuse Symptoms

Broken and fractured bones are clearly a troubling symptom for someone who is living in a nursing home and does not have a great ability to move on their own. Unless the resident suffered the broken bone from a fall, it’s a suspicious occurrence that could have come from someone physically abusing the resident.

Cuts, bruises, and welts are possible signs of physical abuse as well. There’s a chance these wounds could have come from accidental injuries, but if they seem to be present a great deal of the time, they are a red flag that must be looked at more closely.

Neglect Symptoms

Bed sores are a result of leaving the resident in one position on a bed for a long period of time. Nursing home workers should be changing residents’ sheets and repositioning residents so that they get relief from too much skin-to-bed contact.

Frequent infections come from poor hygiene and inadequate cleanliness which could be a result of nursing home workers neglecting to keep up with the routine maintenance of their residents. Though residents could very possibly develop infections from time to time, re-occurrence of these infections is a troubling symptom that must be further examined.

Dehydration is not always easy to detect, but it’s a very clear sign of neglect. If a resident’s not getting the proper fluids needed to stay hydrated, that resident is being neglected. Common signs of dehydration are weakness, irritability, cramps, and inability to pass sizable amounts of urine.

Inexplicable weight loss can come as a result of nursing home workers not giving resident’s adequate amounts of food and nourishment. It can also come as a physiological reaction to severe mental, emotional, and psychological abuse at the hands of workers. Monitoring the causes of weight loss in residents is an important part of detecting if abuse has occurred.

Mental, Emotional, Sexual and Psychological Abuse Symptoms

Mood swings and uncharacteristic anger could form as a result of mental, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse at the hands of nursing home workers. Residents could potentially be acting out this anger and emotional imbalance as a coping mechanism to deal with the abuse that has been done to them. They might be doing this to repress the truth because they fear that if they were to be truthful, they would receive retaliation from their abuser.

Uncharacteristic silence could be used as a form of coping mechanism to block out the pain of abuse. This sort of reclusive mood could also be a way for the resident to ensure that he or she doesn’t say anything bad about his or her caretakers. This could be done because of a fear of retaliation from workers at the nursing home.

Refusal to take medication could stem from a poor relationship with the caretakers who are providing said medication. Because the resident does not trust the caretaker, he or she will not ingest anything given to him or her by the caretaker. Depression can also factor into not taking medication, as the resident quite simply does not have the interest or wherewithal to do so.

Other Symptoms

Hesitance of caretakers to leave residents alone with others could very well stem from the fact that said caretaker does not want the resident to say something incriminating about him or her and the abuse that he or she has done to the resident. When visiting a loved one at a nursing home, it’s a good idea to have some alone time with that loved one to see how he or she acts when they’re away from their caretaker.

Aimless wandering around the nursing home could be done by some residents who are living in an abusive environment. This type of wandering is done in an attempt to get away from this harsh environment in the best way possible.

Nursing home abuse is a problem in need of solving. To help solve it, awareness must be spread, and vigilance must be practiced. By being aware of the different types of nursing home abuse as well as the symptoms that they cause, it is possible to spot abuse when it is occurring so that something can be done about it.

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