Watch for signs of neglect and abuse in nursing home care

Nursing home abuse is a chronic problem that seems never to go away completely or for long, even solely judging from the many news reports we see or read.

Of course, citizens have a right to demand accountability from the homes that take our elders and our money, as well as from their government watchdog agencies. But elders are everyone’s responsibility, if only because we all join them if we are lucky. Here are some signs of abuse we can look for when our loved ones live in a nursing home environment.

Emotional and psychological challenges

If you are surprised to find the nursing home resident distant, afraid, in emotional distress or unexpectedly angry, it could be a sign of abuse, as TPT Public Television points out. If they seem reluctant to talk about the home’s staff, or to talk with them in the room or appear afraid of them, then emotional, physical or sexual abuse might be the cause.

Most of all, we want our loved ones to be emotionally healthy. But when an elderly loved one has psychological difficulties, it is often a sign of other forms of abuse or neglect. Besides, poor emotional health can also compromise your loved one’s overall health.

Malnutrition and dehydration

Some symptoms can be a sign of more than one type of abuse, resulting in false alarms as well as missed warning signs at the same time. Malnutrition and dehydration, for example, are easily confused.

Malnutrition may appear as:

  • Weight loss, fragile bones, flaccid muscles, weakness.
  • Mental decline, memory loss, confusion, dizziness, fatigue.
  • White patches on the cheeks or tongue.
  • Canker sores, a bright red mouth.
  • Dry skin, red and glassy eyes or swollen corneas.

Dehydration can appear as thirst, of course, but there can be many less obvious signs:

  • Dry skin and dry mouth.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, faintness, lightheadedness.
  • A red face, chills, dark urine.

Declining personal hygiene

Among the most important reasons for nursing homes is many elderly people need help with basic self-care, such as personal hygiene. Poor dental health, not having bathed, unkempt hair, neglected finger and toenails and the like are not acceptable.

A decline in these areas is often a red flag for other issues, but they alone are a denial of a basic right and a form of abuse.


Injuries like broken bones or bruises happen to anyone, but in nursing home residents they should be considered very seriously. Whether your loved one is the victim of physical violence or staff is simply not helping them with bathing, walking, etc., physical injuries justify a detailed look at the nursing home.