Recognizing the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

As much as we may try to fight it, declining health and increasing awareness of one’s own mortality are natural consequences of aging—meaning that the elderly already have enough to worry about without being victimized in nursing homes or other elder care institutions. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect are as prevalent now as ever. Exactly how prevalent, you ask? Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine any kind of an exact answer to this question due to two major methodological challenges that come with studying elderly abuse: 1) challenges faced in detecting the signs of elderly abuse, and 2) challenges in reporting elderly abuse.


Challenges in detection generally result from the lack of training many geriatric care professionals receive to recognize signs of abuse or neglect, as well as by family members, friends, fellow patients, or others. Challenges in reporting are usually faced by the vulnerable adults themselves and can occur due to a number of reasons—fear of revenge from the abuser, physical or cognitive inability to communicate the abuse, or desire to keep the abuser out of trouble. To put this last reason into context, let’s take a look at some relevant facts and statistics:

  • Nursing home neglect is a failure to react to a potentially dangerous situation, or a failure to provide care or services such that a person risks potentially unnecessary harm, pain, or anxiety. It can be committed intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Nursing home abuse occurs when a party intentionally causes physical harm, pain or mental anguish via irrational confinement, punishment, intimidation, deprivation, or injury.
  • 5 million seniors are estimated to be suffering neglect or abuse every year.
  • 90% of abusers are family members of the victim, most commonly adult children, spouses or partners.
  • It’s estimated that 93-96% of geriatric abuse cases go unreported.

Now that you know a little bit more about the severity and prevalence of nursing home neglect and abuse, you’ll need to find ways to stop it. The first step, of course, is recognizing the signs of geriatric abuse in the first place. These may include:

• Heavy medication or sedation
• Bed injuries
• Asphyxiation
• Dehydration
• Untreated health problems
• Malnutrition
• Bed sores
• Sudden weight change
• Sudden behavioral changes
• Residents being covered by lice, fleas, urine, or fecal matter
• Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
• Unexplained injuries or sudden death

Similarly, indications financial abuse may include:

• Unauthorized credit or ATM card transactions
• Forged signatures
• Sudden changes in wills or other legal documents
• New names on bank or other accounts
• Unpaid bills
• Lost possessions
• Missing sums of money

If you’ve recognized any of the above signs of abuse, you will need to take quick action to cease the abuse before the victim’s life is further endangered. That’s where we come in. We here at Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel are well-versed in cases of nursing home neglect and abuse and have a wide-array of tools at our disposal to take on this horrific and challenging problem.

If you believe that your loved one is being targeted by abuse or neglect in Washington State, call us right away after contacting Adult Protective Services. We will assist you in navigating any legal issues that may arise in making sure that such victims of abuse find safety and justice.