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What Are The Most Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse?

The most common types of nursing home abuse are physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, and neglect. However, most victims suffer a combination of these.

Learning to recognize the warning signs can help you protect a loved one living in a nursing home and get them help as quickly as possible if a problem arises.

Physical Abuse

Physical nursing home abuse involves intentionally causing a victim pain or injury. This could range from striking the victim with a hand or object to slapping, kicking, shoving, or shaking. Restraining a nursing home resident against their will is also a form of physical abuse.

Physical abuse may include the following symptoms:

  • Dislocations
  • Fractures
  • Burns and scalds
  • Head injuries
  • Bruises
  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Internal injuries

Pay close attention if nursing home staff members attribute these types of injuries to clumsiness, unexplained falls, or other events that are not characteristic of the victim’s health profile.

In some cases, the victim may suddenly refuse visitors, or the facility may refuse to let you visit alone with your loved one. Either of these events should raise a potential red flag with family members.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional nursing home abuse consists of verbal and non-verbal acts undertaken to cause psychological anguish, pain, or distress. Bullying, humiliation, harassment, coercion, yelling, isolation, and intimidation are all forms of this type of abuse.

This type of abuse can be difficult to detect.

Common signs of emotional abuse include the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fearfulness (especially upon visitor departure)
  • Inhibited speech
  • Withdrawal
  • Agitation
  • PTSD symptoms

If the victim develops emotional or psychological symptoms that do not align with their existing conditions, it may indicate that they are experiencing abuse. Abusers often use emotional abuse tactics to gain control of the victim for the purpose of financially or sexually exploiting them, believing that they can prevent the victim from reporting the abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual nursing home abuse involves any type of sexual contact that occurs without the victim’s consent. This also includes forcing them to disrobe, as well as the abuser exposing themselves to the victim.

This type of abuse may also be very difficult to detect.

Common signs of sexual abuse include the following:

  • Unexplained pelvic pain or bleeding
  • Trouble sitting or walking
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • STDs
  • PTSD symptoms
  • Bruising
  • Skin irritation, particularly in the genital or buttock area
  • Fearfulness
  • Emotional withdrawal

Abusers may sexually exploit victims for the purpose of psychological manipulation or financial abuse. Sexual and physical abuse may also take place concurrently.

Family members should take note of any sudden, unexplained changes in personality that cannot otherwise be attributed to the victim’s current condition.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation of an elder involves the improper or illegal use of the victim’s assets, monetary resources, or valuable personal property. Forcing the victim to sign documents they do not understand or agree to falls under this category as does forcing them to sign a power of attorney or make changes to their will.

Common signs of financial exploitation of an elder include the following:

  • Missing possessions (jewelry, cash)
  • Unexplained credit card purchases
  • Unexplained bank withdrawals
  • Forged checks
  • Identify theft
  • Fraudulent billing for services

If your loved one is living in a nursing home or assisted living facility, ensure that a trusted individual (family attorney, CPA, or a designated family member) monitors their bank and credit accounts for any irregular or suspicious activity.


In the nursing home or residential care environment, victims may experience general neglect, medical neglect, or both.

General Neglect

Basic needs neglect involves nursing home staff and caregivers failing to provide the victim’s basic life needs. This may include denying the victim food, water, safety, comfort, clean clothing, and basic care.

Common signs of general neglect include the following:

Medical Neglect

Medical neglect involves the failure to provide necessary treatment and care for the victim.

Common signs of medical neglect include the following:

Failing to provide basic preventive care is also a form of medical neglect.

The Importance of Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse

If your loved one lives in a nursing home or residential care center, they face the risk of abuse from facility employees, care providers, other residents, visitors, contractors, and others.

If your loved one does suffer abuse, they may be too fearful or lack the ability to communicate or report the situation. Understanding the various types of abuse and the potential signs of each can help you recognize and report any potential abuse as quickly as possible.

If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected, consider talking to a nursing home abuse lawyer for help. For a free consultation, call 1-800-516-4783.