Nursing Home Abuse: What are the Warning Signs?

2/11/2020 By Andrea Gold Read in 3 minutes

Nursing home abuse is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Find out what the warning signs are.

Nursing home abuse is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent study found that only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are reported. How would you know if a family member was being abused in a nursing home?

Your mother has been in a nursing home for about a year. This was a difficult decision, but after discussing the possibility with her, you both agreed this was the right choice. She adjusted to the new environment quickly, and everything seemed to be going well. Then you started noticing a change in her personality. Your mom has always been a friendly and social person, but within the last month, she began to become distant and withdrawn. 

You wonder if something is wrong. Is she behaving differently because she’s getting older, or is there another reason? Some people become more vulnerable to bullying and abuse as they age. It’s more difficult to stand up for yourself as you become frail. Many people in a long-term care facility are reluctant to tell family members they are being abused, because they are afraid of retaliation from the abuser.

If you have a family member in a nursing home and you notice changes in their personality, you should look into the possibility of abuse. Below are some of the signs of elder abuse

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect


Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Broken Bones: as people age, they are more prone to falling and getting hurt. There is a difference between fractures from an accidental fall or broken bones from being dropped, restrained, or physically assaulted. Most doctors can tell the difference between a fracture from an accident or abuse. Ask your family member’s doctor what he or she thinks may have caused the injury.
  • Bruises: when a family member has a bruise, scrape, or even a welt on their body, it's cause for concern and something you should look into. When you visit your relative, take a look at his or her wrists, ankles, and upper arm for bruises or scrapes.
  • Broken glasses: if your family member has broken glasses, this can be a sign of an issue. Look at your relative’s face for cuts and bruises.
  • Socially withdrawn: if your family member is normally friendly and social and all of a sudden becomes withdrawn, this could be a sign of abuse.
  • Startle easily: signs of fear and being on edge all the time can be a sign of abuse. Does your relative seem unusually jumpy or anxious?

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Repetitive behavior: one sign of emotional abuse is repetitive behavior. This behavior can be rocking back and forth, sucking or mumbling. 
  • Social changes: when a person who was once friendly and approachable becomes withdrawn, this can be a sign that this person is experiencing some type of emotional abuse. A noticeable change in self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety are also signs of abuse.
  • Refuse medication: some people refuse to take their medication when they are being physically or emotionally abused.

As people age, certain emotional changes can take place. Some people start to feel depressed as they age or develop health issues like dementia that can cause changes in behavior. A doctor can determine whether your family member is exhibiting behavior due to age or health-related issues.

If your loved one is showing signs and symptoms of abuse without an underlying physical cause, you should be concerned. Elder abuse is very serious and can lead to severe injuries and death.

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