Telltale Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

By Amber Paley

It’s a loving adult daughter’s worst nightmare:

She chose the wrong care facility for her elderly parent.

Stories of  of abuse and neglect in nursing homes runs rampant.

Your memories of the love and  nurturing you received by a mother who now has dementia, or a father who now has Parkinson’s, is at odds with your new role as your surviving parent’s guardian and primary caregiver.

So, how do you know that your loved one is being treated and cared for humanely?

Here are the telltale signs of nursing home abuse and neglect:

Changes in Behavior

One of the most obvious signs that your loved one is being abused, whether emotionally or physically, is if his or her behavior suddenly changes.  Abuse of every kind doesn’t just take a physical toll on victims; it also takes an emotional one.  Elders may become moody, irritable, unresponsive, or exhibit withdrawn, isolating behavior.

Physical Evidence

Physical evidence is the most obvious indication of abuse.  Torn clothing or undergarments, bedsores (both treated and untreated), bruises, abrasions, and physical restraint marks all are very noticeable physical signs of abuse.  Another, perhaps less noticeable, sign of abuse is unnecessary use of psychoactive or sedative drugs on the elderly.  Staff members many times simply don’t have time to deal with patients, so they give them drugs illegally and unnecessarily.  If your elder seems slow, groggy, or unaware of his or her surroundings, this could be a sign of abuse and neglect.

Verbal Indications

Due to ageism, many people don’t take what the elderly say seriously. Well yes, you should. Listen to your loved one, especially if they express that they aren’t happy with their living arrangements.  Take all accusations seriously, and take time to evaluate and investigate them.

Odd Staff Behavior

Signs of abuse or neglect include odd staff behaviors.  If staff members act odd towards you, seem too eager to be around when you visit your loved one, refuse to let you see your loved one, make excuses to keep you from visiting your loved one, or refuse to let you see your loved one without them present, your loved one may be enduring abuse.


If your loved one has suffered from “accidents” and ended up in the hospital or needed to seek medical attention on multiple occasions, this could be a sign of neglect at the very least, if not abuse.  Accidents are an indication that staff members are not providing your loved one with a safe living environment, or that they are mistreating your loved one.

If your loved one exhibits any of these signs of abuse, do not act irrationally.  Sometimes things are as they appear, but at other times they are not.  Before making accusations, always thoroughly investigate the situation, and only after being sure that abuse is taking place should you report it.

Just knowing what to look for puts you in a much better position to identify abuse–and protect your loved one.


Amber Paley is the founder of, a website dedicated to providing accurate articles, legislative and legal updates, and resources designed to provide individuals with the tools they need to prevent and cope with the consequences of nursing home abuse.