Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home residents depend on the nursing home staff to assist with their daily needs, as well as to treat them for physical and/or medical conditions. Because residents are so vulnerable, abuse can take many forms. Staff can give residents too many drugs or the wrong medications, deprive them of heat or food, or simply pay insufficient attention to their needs. Even if the resident isn't aware of abuse or able to communicate it, our nursing home experts recognize when a resident has been mistreated and can review medical and procedural documentation to glean insight into your loved one’s care.

Bed Sores, Pressure Sores, Decubitus Ulcers

Pressure sores are lesions in the skin which typically form due to constant pressure on bony parts of the body. This pressure decreases the blood flow to those areas, causing the tissue to die. Bed sores can occur anywhere, but are commonly found on the:

  • sacrum

  • coccyx (tailbone)

  • ankles

  • elbows

  • heels

Pressure ulcers are often preventable. Nursing homes and hospitals are obligated to identify individuals at risk for bed sores and form and implement a care plan to prevent pressure ulcers. There are numerous risk factors for the development of pressure ulcers.

Clinically, bedsores and pressure sores are classified within four stages, with Stage One being the least serious, and Stage Four the most serious. Nursing home bedsores and pressure sores can lead to serious pain, infection, injuries, and in some cases even death caused by systemic sepsis. The suffering is horrible! If the patient is incontinent and receives insufficient hygienic assistance, the danger of sepsis is even more pronounced. The presence of patients suffering with bedsores and pressure sores in a nursing home is glaring evidence of nursing home neglect and abuse, and it is estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that up to 28% of nursing home patients suffer from bedsores and pressure ulcers.

Despite their serious threat, prevention of bedsores or pressure-ulcers is quite simple when nursing homes adhere to the following best practices:

  • Help the patient regularly change his or her position

  • Use high-quality, soft bedding

  • Keep bedding and mattresses clean and dry

  • Enforce good nutrition

  • Treat all skin infections immediately

Separately, what exactly does poor hygiene refer to, in terms of nursing home patient care? It can cover a wide range of neglect, including, but not limited to:

  • Patients not showered or bathed regularly

  • Dressings and bandages not changed regularly

  • Patients not changed and cleaned after a bowel movement or urinating, or left unattended with soiled garments or soiled bedding

  • Infrequent tooth brushing and oral hygiene

  • Inadequate grooming in which the patient appears to be unkempt, disheveled and neglected


Sepsis is a serious and potentially life-threatening complication of an infection caused by an overwhelming immune response to infection. Chemicals released into the blood to fight infection trigger widespread inflammation which may result in organ damage. Blood clotting during sepsis reduces blood flow to limbs and internal organs, depriving them of nutrients and oxygen. Persons with sepsis may experience fever, chills, loss of appetite, rapid breathing and an irregular heartbeat. In severe cases, one or more organs fail. In the worst cases, infection leads to a life-threatening drop in blood pressure called septic shock. This can quickly lead to failure of several organs--lungs, kidneys, and liver--causing death.

Sepsis occurs in 1% to 2% of all hospitalizations in the U.S. It affects at least 750,000 people each year. The term sepsis is often used interchangeably with septicemia, a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly and is often fatal.

Wandering And Elopement

If residents are left on their own they are at risk for suffering serious injuries and even death. Nursing home elopement and wandering are related concepts, and in most cases, are a result of poor supervision by staff.

Elopement refers to a resident’s ability to leave the facility unsupervised and unnoticed, putting the resident’s safety in danger.

Wandering refers to aimless movement throughout the facility, where the resident’s safety is at risk due to an inability to appreciate danger.

When nursing home staff members fail to implement measures to address wandering or elopement behaviors, residents are at higher risk of falls, exposure to harsh weather conditions, and other significant dangers.


If an older person falls down, their very fragile bones can result in serious injuries and complications, including even death.

  • Falls result in pain and suffering, disability, and rapid functional decline. The fear of falling again can cause accelerated loss of function, feelings of helplessness, depression, and social isolation.

  • About 35% of fall injuries occur among residents who cannot walk.

  • Almost 20% of nursing home falls cause serious to very serious injuries.

  • Every year, an average nursing home with 100 beds reports 100 to 200 falls. Many more falls go unreported.

  • Almost 1,800 people living in nursing homes die each year as the result of falls.

Some common causes of nursing home falls are:

  • Muscle weakness and walking problems account for almost 25% of incidents.

  • Medications can increase the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as sedatives and anti-anxiety medications, are especially dangerous.

  • Most people would be stunned to learn that some patients are allowed to walk after receiving sedating medications.

  • Environmental hazards such as wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height, and improperly-fitted or maintained wheelchairs.

  • Inadequate staffing to monitor patient activity.

  • Failure to use proper procedures to transport or assist a patient, such as not using a support belt with patients during therapeutic exercises, or failure to provide adequate assistance in going to the restroom, getting out of bed, or maneuvering a wheelchair.

  • A lack of handrails, grab bars, and bed rails in nursing home resident rooms and restrooms.

  • Inadequate foot care, improperly-fitting shoes, and incorrect use of walking aids.

Physical Or Sexual Assault Or Abuse

Nursing home residents are easy targets of physical or sexual abuse because of their physical dependence on others. Many residents cannot communicate, and therefore, cannot report abuse themselves. Maltreatment of the elderly is absolutely unacceptable and deserves severe punishment to both the perpetrator and the nursing home that allowed abuse to occur. Physical abuse encompasses both sexual assault and any form of physical assault or maltreatment.

A resident may not be able to speak for themselves, but their physical condition can reveal warning signs of nursing home abuse. These signs include unexplained cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. If you believe that a relative has been physically or sexually abused by a nursing home employee, or by a fellow nursing home resident, it is crucial to take action immediately.

Malnutrition Or Dehydration

It is not uncommon for nursing homes to fail to keep patients properly fed and hydrated. Most commonly the primary cause of this is because patients cannot feed themselves any longer and the nursing home staff does not take the time to assist them. When a person is suffering from dehydration or malnutrition while living at a nursing home, they may become non-responsive and no longer able to feed themselves or drink on their own. Nursing home staff may put food and drink down in front of them but not take the time to sit down to feed them, ensuring that they get adequate hydration and nutrition. Because of their age and other health problems, malnutrition and dehydration can set in very quickly causing other issues, such as:


  • Urinary tract infections

  • Propensity for bedsores


Nursing home residents often have medical problems or take medications that make it difficult to properly chew or swallow food. Many residents are a high risk for choking because of this.

Choking, by depriving oxygen to the brain, can cause brain injuries and even death. While such an injury may appear to be accidental, in some instances, choking is a result of nursing home neglect. When this is the case, it is important that nursing homes are held accountable for their fatal mistakes.

All nursing home choking cases are unique, but we often see cases involving residents who had special dietary needs but were fed the wrong food, or residents who were not properly monitored by staff while they were eating. These failures often occur when nursing homes do not employ sufficient staff to address the special needs of each of the residents under their care.

Alzheimer's And Other Dementias

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, memory loss is an example. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia.

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

The rights of residents suffering from dementia are the same as everyone else. People suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias require a higher level of care to thrive in a long-term care setting. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s do not receive the care and treatment they deserve. This is due to overpopulation, understaffing, and improper training in long-term care facilities. When nursing homes fail to deliver the proper care and support to residents with Alzheimer’s and residents suffer serious injuries or death, families should take action to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Sadly, many members of this vulnerable population cannot speak up for themselves when injustices occur. That is why it is crucial for families to understand the signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect and take action immediately if a loved one suffers injuries at the hands of negligent staff in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or while receiving home healthcare services.