Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: When to Know it’s Time to Contact an Attorney

Senior Man in Wheelchair looking out of a window in a hospital corridor. - common signs of nursing home abuse concept

When you make the tough decision to place an elderly loved one in a skilled nursing facility, you expect that they will receive the care, treatment, and attention they need. Sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect are all too common — and mistreatment can take many different forms. If you suspect that your family member has been subjected to abuse or neglect in a nursing home, it’s crucial to know what signs to look for.   

What is the Difference Between Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, it’s important to understand the difference between nursing home abuse and neglect. Nursing home abuse can be defined as any type of intentional physical, emotional, psychological, or financial harm to an older adult residing in a long-term care facility. While nursing home neglect is a subset of abuse, it specifically constitutes the failure to provide a resident with their basic needs, such as food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical care. 

Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect                                          

Unfortunately, the rate of abuse in nursing homes is high. Older adults who reside in nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to abuse, particularly those who are suffering from cognitive or physical decline. According to statistics by the World Health Organization, 64.2% of staff in long-term care facilities reported having perpetrated some form of abuse within the past year.     

It’s essential to be able to identify nursing home abuse so you know when to call an attorney. Here are some common signs of nursing home abuse and neglect:

Unexplained Injuries

Unexplained injuries — such as broken bones, bruises, scars, or welts — are a common sign of physical abuse in a nursing home. These types of injuries can arise as a result of repeated falling, mishandling, or physical altercations with staff. If you see any of these injuries in your loved one, you should investigate promptly.                                     


Bedsores are also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers. They usually form due to constant pressure on the skin. This condition occurs in people who are unable to move around on their own and spend a majority of their time in bed or sitting in a chair. Bedsores are entirely preventable with proper care and are typically a red flag for nursing home neglect.           

Mobility Loss

If you notice that your loved one has suffered a recent loss or lack of mobility, it may be a sign that their basic needs are not being met. Generally, mobility loss is the result of being sedentary and lacking physical activity. It is also a typical indication of nursing home neglect.         

Behavioral Changes

Sudden changes in the behavior of a nursing home resident can signal serious issues such as abuse or neglect. When a nursing home resident has been subject to abuse, threats, bullying, or neglect, they can be withdrawn or exhibit moodiness and outbursts. They might also be hesitant to talk about their situation. If you notice an unexplained difference in your loved one’s demeanor or mood, it may be time to consult with a nursing home abuse attorney.    


Malnutrition and dehydration occur all too often in nursing homes. In many cases, malnourishment happens because of understaffing. Common symptoms to look out for can include pallid or dry skin, cognitive issues, weight loss, cold sores, and low energy. Malnourishment is a type of nursing home abuse — and it can be avoided by ensuring proper care.                    

Poor Hygiene

An indication that your loved one isn’t getting the care and attention they need is poor hygiene. Signs of caregiver neglect can include body odor, dirty clothing, unwashed hair, and an unclean living environment.                                                                                                    

Poor Conditions at the Facility

When you visit your loved one at the nursing home facility, be sure to take note of any hazardous or unsanitary conditions in the common areas — as well as in their room. Nursing homes must ensure safe and sanitary conditions. If rooms, bathrooms, shared spaces, and the kitchen area are not properly sanitized, illnesses can result.                                   

Lack of Medical Care

Often, nursing home residents require medical treatment for conditions such as dementia, diabetes, or other existing health problems. Not providing the necessary medical care, procedures, or prescriptions needed is a common form of nursing home neglect. Critically, failure to address a resident’s complaints of certain symptoms and take the proper medical precautions can lead to serious complications.     

Insufficient Supervision

Nursing home residents can be subject to many dangers if they are not adequately supervised, or staff does not respond to their needs. The level of supervision that is sufficient can depend upon whether the resident is competent and capable of independently getting around on their own. However, staff should still conduct regular checks on each resident. If a resident cannot walk on their own or has a history of falling, they may require constant supervision.                  

Refusal to Allow Visitors

If a nursing home refuses to allow you to visit or have contact with your loved one, this is a major red flag. While a competent resident is permitted to turn visitors away, the facility cannot turn guests away under federal law. In the event you are denied access and elder abuse or neglect is suspected, you should contact the authorities immediately.   

Steps to Take if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

If you suspect that a loved one has been subjected to nursing home abuse or neglect, there are several steps that you can take.  If you believe your loved one is in any immediate danger, contact the authorities immediately.  If the threat is not as urgent, file a report with the authorities citing the suspected maltreatment. You may also file a report using the resources provided below.

The Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC): 1-844-880-1574

North Dakota Vulnerable Adult Protective Services Central Intake Line: 1-855-462-5465, "Press 2".

Finally, it’s vital to seek experienced legal counsel to provide you with your options. Located in Fargo, the compassionate and experienced legal team at Fremstad Law Firm is dedicated to helping clients in Minnesota and North Dakota. We welcome you to contact us online or by calling (701) 478-7620 to learn how we can assist you.