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Steps To Take If You Suspect Abuse or Neglect of a Loved One in a Nursing Home


The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is a serious one. When the time comes for an elderly family member or friend to be placed in the long term care; guilt, sadness and concern are all standard emotions. We want a place where they will be happy, find friends, be well fed and cared for. Most of all, we want them to be safe. We expect them to be safe.

Unfortunately; there is a growing number of elder abuse cases around the country. This is simply due to the increase in the population of people living past 85 years. In 2010, there were 5.8 million people aged 85 or older. By 2050, it is projected that there will be 19 million people aged 85 or older.1 Poor treatment and neglect can range from stealing money or small personal items to restricting food, activity or medication. Physical abuse seems unthinkable; yet, those claims have increased as has the growing number of elders in nursing homes throughout the United States.

Sometimes; our family member will talk about the abuse or neglect. Many do speak out. That is the starting point to begin verifying the complaints and considering their validity. Others may not be so open with the problems they are encountering. If you have that ‘gut feeling’ or see some concerning signs; start taking note. Pay close attention during visits to glean information on how your loved one is being treated. Firstly, note how the resident interacts with the staff at the facility. Is there anyone in particular that they shy away from? Does their body stiffen or show signs of stress when a certain person approaches?

Some additional Red Flags may be:

  • Sudden weight loss, dehydration, malnutrition
  • Bruising, sores, restraint marks
  • Withdrawn behavior, nervous, depressed
  • Financial changes-frequent withdrawals, changes to wills, loss of personal property

Document what you see and start taking steps if you suspect Elder Abuse is taking place.

  1. Verify the Story-Try to gain as much insight to what you are seeing or being told by your loved one. Speak to the resident directly. Ask open ended questions to gather insight. If they seem resistant to share; be aware of non-verbal cues and reactions. Ask other residents some questions as well, gather medical records.
  2. Consider Relocating to Another Facility-if immediate danger is a clear, remove the resident from the facility.
  3. Inform the Authorities-call the police to file charges
  4. File a complaint with Social Services or Elder Protective Services
  5. Retain an Attorney- Personal Injury or Elder Law

Nursing homes are held to a high standard of care through the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987. More information regarding residents rights can be found at The National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.

For more information on what to do if a loved one is a victim of Elder Abuse, please call us at the Brooks Law Group at 1-888-We-Mean-It.


1U.S. Dept. of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. (2010) The next four decades: The older population in the united states: 2010 to 2050 (Publication P25-1138). Washington, D.C.: Author.

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