Nursing Home Abuse: Red Flags, When to Take Action, and How

Know the signs of nursing home abuse.

The Golden Years are supposed to be among the best of a person's life—a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of a lifetime's labor. But for some seniors, the Golden Years are punctuated by cognitive and physical limitations that affect their ability to live independently, and their care is entrusted to home health aides and nursing home workers.

Unfortunately, not all home health aides and nursing homes are created equally. Nursing home abuse is almost a national epidemic—there are more reported cases of elder abuse each year in the U.S. than both child abuse and domestic violence. In 2015, 20,000 cases of elder abuse were reported in Pennsylvania alone.

Considering the sharp rise in nursing home abuse cases on state and national levele, we want to stress the importance of being vigilant if your loved one is cared for by a home healthcare or nursing home worker and you suspect abuse.

Understanding Nursing Home Abuse

The first step in combating nursing home abuse in Pennsylvania is understanding what it is: Intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that may lead to the harm of an elderly person.

There are many types of nursing home abuse, including:

  • Neglect
  • Financial abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical and sexual abuse

Our nursing home abuse attorneys encourage everyone to be familiar with the red flags associated with abuse—and to say something if you notice any of them.

Nursing Home Abuse Red Flags

There are many types of nursing home abuse, and it's important to understand the red flags to look out for when visiting with your loved one.

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Types of elder abuse include:


Red flags of neglect:

  • Poor hygiene. If your loved one is not bathed regularly, if you notice they are wearing soiled clothing, or living in a dirty room, they could be the victim of neglect.
  • They are left unsupervised. Dementia patients in particular need supervised care. If someone you care about suffers from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, and they are left unsupervised, consider this a red flag signifying neglect. The same is true if your loved one is confined to a bed without adequate care.
  • Bedsores. These painful wounds are also known as pressure ulcers. These occur when a patient who is confined to a bed or who uses a wheelchair is not repositioned enough. The bed or wheelchair causes pressure on the skin, which reduces blood flow and causes sores.

Financial Abuse

Red flags for financial abuse:

  • Lack of amenities they should be able to afford
  • "Voluntary"—and overly generous—gifts to caregivers
  • Money that goes missing
  • Unauthorized use of financial accounts

Emotional Abuse

Red flags for emotional abuse:

  • Uncharacteristic changes in behavior
  • Withdrawal from everyday activities they used to enjoy
  • Isolation from family members and friends

Physical and Sexual Abuse

Red flags for physical and sexual abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises, fractures, welts, cuts, or other injuries
  • Unexplained injury or pain to the patient's private parts

Like we said: Understanding the types of abuse and being aware of the red flags is just the first step in combating nursing home abuse. You also need to know what to do if you suspect that someone you care about is being mistreated.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Pennsylvania

Advocates for senior citizens estimate that most cases of elder abuse go unreported. That's why we can't stress enough: Please, if you see something suspicious, take note, and say something.

If you suspect that someone in your community is being abused by a caretaker or loved one, report your concerns to the local adult protective services agency. In Pennsylvania, you can make an anonymous report on behalf of someone who lives:

  • In their own home
  • In a care facility such as a nursing or group home

However, if you believe that someone is in imminent danger, bypass adult protective services and instead call 911.

Otherwise, call the protective services hotline available 24/7 at 1-800-490-8505.

What to Expect When You Call to Report Nursing Home Abuse

When you call to report suspected nursing home abuse, the conversation will be simple and straightforward. You will be asked:

  • What you observed - The adult protective services agent will walk you through what you saw, heard or witnessed. It's helpful to have as much concrete information as you can such as the date and time of the incident, as well as what happened immediately before and afterward.
  • Who was involved - They will ask for details about the person you believe is a victim of abuse, as well as the perpetrator. They may also want to know about anyone who may have witnessed the alleged abuse.
  • Who else they can contact for information - You might be asked to provide the names of loved ones or witnesses.

It's important to be candid during the call, and to understand that people who report abuse have legal protection from retaliation, as well as civil and criminal prosecution.

When You Need to Call a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

While the call to report nursing home abuse is simple and straightforward, what follows rarely is.

After a credible allegation of abuse, a case worker is assigned and an investigation ensues. Unfortunately, the agencies entrusted with the investigation are often understaffed. In fact, recent reports indicate that 70 percent of state inspections miss deficiencies in long-term care facilities, and 15 percent miss instances of actual harm to patients.

If you believe your loved one is being abused, and you called to report the abuse to adult protective services, the next call you should make is to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Don't wait to call an attorney for a free case review. When you delay seeking legal help, crucial evidence can disappear, and important deadlines can be missed.

When you hire Edgar Snyder & Associates, our legal team will go to work for you, ensuring that evidence—and your loved one's rights—are protected. We will:

  • Track down evidence like photos and witnesses
  • Determine if the care facility has had similar complaints filed against it previously
  • Gather medical records
  • Determine who's liable for the abuse
  • Handle all aspects of your case—from filing a civil suit to negotiating a settlement to preparing for trial to get compensation for your loved one's injuries

Our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles looked out for us when we were young. Now that they are in their Golden Years, it's our turn to look out for them.

We hope your loved ones get nothing but the best care, but if you suspect nursing home abuse, call Edgar Snyder & Associates today for a free case review. We're available to answer your legal questions 24/7, there's never an obligation to use our services, and there's never a fee unless we get money for you.

National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
Administration for Community Living