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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

Many people choose to place their elderly loved ones in assisted living facilities or nursing homes when they become incapable of caring for their own daily needs. This is a stressful process that many people experience guilt for partaking in. When placing a loved one in a facility, we expect they will be cared for and assisted with their needs. Unfortunately, elderly people can endure abuse in nursing homes. There are ways to prevent nursing home abuse and signs to look out for when you have a loved one in assisted living.

Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse comes in many different forms. Elderly people living in such arrangements are especially vulnerable because they are often limited physically or mentally. Residents in nursing homes being abused can suffer serious harm. Some examples of commonly committed nursing home abuse are as follows.

Physical Abuse

A nursing home tenant experiences physical abuse when a caretaker causes bodily harm or injures them. Some examples include unnecessary restraining, being shoved, or being hit directly. Any type of nursing home resident may be vulnerable, but the physical abuse is often committed against those suffering from cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s. Severe physical abuse can lead to serious injuries, and even death if not treated properly.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs in a nursing home when a caretaker insults one of the residents, belittles them or tries to control them using threats. This includes telling a resident which activities they can and cannot partake in, insulting the way they look or move, isolating them from their loved ones, and threatening them. Consistent emotional abuse can cause long-term issues in nursing home patients, such as depression, anxiety, and noticeable changes in their behavior.


Nursing home neglect occurs when caretakers fail to provide the necessary daily care and attention to a patient. Neglect often causes damage to an elderly person’s emotional and physical well-being. Neglect can occur in many ways, including:

  • Forgetting to provide a patient with necessary medications
  • Failing to clean a resident or change their clothing
  • Failing to provide a resident with adequate nutrition and beverages
  • Leaving residents unattended for extended periods of time
  • Ignoring requests
  • Failing to report serious issues, such as illnesses, to the necessary parties

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is extremely serious and can cause long-term physical and emotional damage to any nursing home resident. Sexual abuse includes any form of unwanted contact, groping, or touching that is performed in a sexual manner. Most facilities have policies barring employees from engaging in any sexual activity with residents, even if it is “wanted.” Sexual abuse is frequently committed against nursing home tenants who cannot give adequate consent. Signs of sexual abuse include sudden STDs, bruises, scratches, and changes in mood.


Elder abandonment occurs when a caretaker leaves an elderly nursing home tenant to fend for themselves for an extended period of time. This differs from neglect in that the nursing home may write a patient off completely or kick them out for poor behavior without informing their loved ones.

Financial Abuse

Elderly people in nursing homes may be subject to financial abuse because they are disabled, cognitively impaired, or being coerced to provided financial assistance to someone. Some examples of financial abuse that occurs in nursing homes include changing a resident’s will through misuse of power of attorney, keeping the elderly person from seeing their own bank statements, stealing their money or bank cards, and stealing their financial information.

This form of abuse can be extremely serious, as elderly people often use their money to pay for their care in the long term. Losing it could also mean losing access to the care they need to survive.

Preventing Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be very difficult to prevent, as many loved ones are unable to visit their elderly family members on a regular basis. However, there are some ways that family members can help prevent nursing home abuse before it begins. Some specific actions that can be taken to prevent abuse include:

  • Frequent visits: Visiting a loved one in a nursing home can be difficult due to travel or restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, seeing an elderly loved one in person is the easiest way to check on their well-being and give them a chance to speak up about their abuse. Visiting an elderly loved one in assisted living will give family members the opportunity to take notes regarding their mood and physical appearance. These notes should be reviewed before the next visit to see whether any changes have occurred.
  • Decrease isolation: Unfortunately, many elderly people living in nursing homes become isolated. An isolated person is a perfect target for a caregiver with bad intentions. The social component of living in a nursing facility is very important. If an elderly loved one is mentally sound and able to form friendships, encouraging them to do so may prevent them from isolation and provide them with a confidant should any abuse begin.
  • Get to know caregivers: Anyone placing a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility should stick around for a while to get to know the people who will be providing their elderly family member with care. Understanding who is working with a loved one on a daily basis can help someone identify who may be abusing them.
  • Create a strong care team: The people working in the nursing facility should not be the only people an elderly resident has to rely on. Building a strong and reliable care team around them can help any abuse get spotted as soon as it begins. A care team includes the people who work with the elderly resident on a daily basis as well as their doctors, legal team, family members, therapists, and social workers.
  • Consider surveillance: Considering whether or not to add surveillance cameras to the living spaces of an elderly nursing home resident can be difficult. Loved ones may not want to intrude on their privacy or make them feel as though they are trapped. However, it should be considered in the case of elderly people who are non-verbal due to cognitive issues or extremely disabled. This way, abuse can be caught without needing them to speak upon it. A non-invasive way to add surveillance to an elderly loved one’s space is through a camera doorbell. While this won’t monitor their living quarters, it will give family members an idea of who is coming in and out of their space and at what times.

Proving Abuse Occurred

A family is within their rights to pursue legal action if they discover abuse has taken place. To prove this abuse has taken place, they will need to show that 3 different elements have been met. Those elements are as follows:

  • Duty of care: The family and/or elderly person must prove that they were owed a duty of care by the nursing home. The duty of care requires nursing home employees to provide residents with the same level of care that another caretaker with similar training and in a similar position would provide. They can be held liable for elder abuse if they fail to do so, even if it happened accidentally.
  • Causation: The abused party will also have to prove that any injuries suffered were inflicted by the abuse. Causation in elder abuse cases is often contested because elderly people often have preexisting conditions. However, if a family is able to prove that the injuries would not have occurred had there not been abuse, they will be successful in claiming causation.
  • Damages: The final necessary element to prove in an elder abuse case is that damages were incurred due to the abuse. A successful claim will result in the abused party receiving compensation for their damages, such as medical bills, therapy, lost property, etc. They can also be compensated for losses that aren’t tangible, such as emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment, diminished quality of life, and more.

Fighting for What You Deserve

If you have discovered that your elderly loved one has been abused in a nursing home or assisted living setting, contact Michael J. Doyle, Attorney at Law today. We are proud to provide one-on-one, customized legal counsel to fight for the maximum compensation your elderly loved one deserves. With over 20 years of experience, we are ready to fight for their rights and advocate on their behalf. Contact us today at (505) 219-2176 or online to schedule a consultation.