Identifying Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

Attending to the needs of an aging loved one at home isn’t always easy or possible. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes can offer welcome relief and reassurance that your elderly loved one will receive the care and attention they deserve. 

However, while many senior care homes provide a loving and supportive environment for their residents, elder abuse in long-term care facilities is a growing cause for worry.  This holds particularly true in California, where nearly 13% of all nursing home complaints involve abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly.  

California elder abuse attorneys caution that identifying elder abuse in nursing homes can be challenging. Many signs of elder abuse are dismissed as symptoms of underlying medical conditions or failing mental capacity. 

Understanding types of elder abuse and identifying factors is vital to ensuring your loved one’s safety in a nursing home.  

Four Common Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse takes many forms. It often presents as emotional or physical harm perpetrated against older adults.  It also includes neglect and financial exploitation. 

Physical Assault

The intentional use of force or unwanted sexual contact against an older person that results in physical harm or injury is considered physical elder abuse. 

  • Hitting
  • Spanking
  • Spitting
  • Bruising
  • Unwanted touching
  • Sexual assault
  • Unnecessary restraint
  • Overmedicating
  • Withholding medical treatment

Emotional Abuse: 

Any form of mistreatment that causes psychological harm or distress to an older person is a form of emotional abuse. 

  • Isolation
  • Intimidation
  • Humiliation
  • Indifference


Any failure to provide for the routine care or specialized needs of an older person is considered elder neglect. 

Elder neglect comprises more than 50% of elder abuse cases. 

Nursing homes are obligated to monitor and care for elderly residents and provide for their complete care.  Whether intentional or unintentional, a failure to provide the appropriate standard of care required by a resident for their health and safety is neglect. 

Financial Exploitation:

The unauthorized use of an older person’s identity, property, or finances is financial abuse.

  • Stolen money
  • Undue influence or fraud to obtain lifetime gifts, pay-on-death transfers, or an inheritance
  • Property theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Blackmail
  • Investment fraud
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Identity theft

What are the Warning Signs of Nursing Home Elder Abuse?

Identifying elder abuse is difficult because the warning signs mimic other physical ailments and mental decline common in older adults. An initial indicator that something is wrong with the care of your loved one might be friction between the elderly person and their caregiver, but not always.  Additional warning signs of maltreatment include:

Physical warning signs:

  • Unexplained or frequent bruises, welts, or broken bones
  • Broken hearing aids or eyeglasses
  • Consistent bed sores
  • Drug overdoses 
  • Unexplained changes in medication 
  • Signs of restraint
  • Regular or prolonged periods of isolation

Emotional warning signs:

  • Sudden onset of mumbling, rocking, thumb-sucking
  • Controlling caregiver behavior

Neglect warning signs:

  • Bed Sores
  • Soiled clothes
  • Bug bites
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Poor Hygiene 
  • Poor facility maintenance

Financial exploitation warning signs:

  • Missing items or cash
  • Changes to wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Added signatories or beneficiaries on accounts
  • Unnecessary purchases
  • Unusual purchases
  • Duplicate healthcare billings
  • Unpaid bills

California Elder Abuse Attorneys, Protecting Our Elderly

California elder abuse attorneys understand the trauma experienced by victims of nursing home abuse and the corresponding pain caused to family members.

If you are a victim of nursing home elder abuse, or if you suspect a loved one of being abused, it is essential you contact an elder abuse attorney for legal advice and support.

Contact us today for a consultation today to learn more about protecting your elderly loved ones during their golden years.