Know the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

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Nursing homes are intended to serve as safe haven for the elderly. Families trust that a nursing home will provide its residents with a positive and caring environment. Sadly, abuse and neglect remain common in nursing homes. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 10 elders is abused every year across the United States.

Nursing home abuse is such a serious problem that the federal government has enacted nursing home regulations. The regulations define abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish.” Therefore, the elder abuse can be physical, emotional, or both.

It is important that families consistently look for signs of abuse. Some signs, such as those of physical abuse, may be more discernable than others. Signs of physical abuse may include inexplicable broken bones, bruises, or other physical injuries. Sometimes, the combination of a victim’s age and fear of “speaking out” unfortunately leads family members to consider physical injuries as something other than abuse.

Emotional abuse is more difficult to identify. Families may often incorrectly attribute symptoms of emotional abuse to dementia or aging. Sadly, emotional abuse is often only recognized when severe warning signs surface.

An elderly person’s display of the below signs may indicate the presence of emotional abuse at the nursing home:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings that change quickly
  • Nervousness in the presence of certain nursing home staff members
  • Contradictory statements regarding behavior or injuries

Another sign to watch out for is a nursing home’s refusal to allow guests to visit alone with the patient. To ensure that persons living in nursing homes are kept safe and free from abuse, families must learn the signs of abuse so that they can be more easily identified and recognized. 

Legal Remedies

Individuals who engage in nursing home abuse should not go unpunished. Nursing home abuse negatively affects both the victims—their physical and mental well-being—and the families of the victims. Fortunately, someone who is abused, as well as his or her family, may be able to recover damages.

Some of the potentially recoverable damages include:

  • Medical Expenses – A victim of physical abuse may require medical treatment to recover. Victims are entitled to recover the costs of related medical expenses.
  • Pain and Suffering – These damages are designed to compensate an injured party for the physical and emotional pain caused. Sometimes, this can be a significant amount of damages.
  • Punitive Damages – These damages, which are sometimes awarded, are designed to “send a message.” The goal is to punish the offenders and further discourage other bad actors from committing similarly abusive acts.


If you suspect that a loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse, it is time to fight back. Nursing home residents should never suffer have to abuse. If they do, the abusers must be held responsible and the victims should be compensated for their suffering. The Rice, Murtha & Psoras is ready to address nursing home abuse and ensure that your affected family members receive the compensation they deserve. If your loved one has suffered physical or emotional abuse at a nursing home, call us to schedule your initial consultation at (410) 694-7291 today.


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