How to Identify Signs of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

Woman holding senior woman's hand on bedAlthough nursing home care can significantly enhance quality of life for many seniors, emerging data collected in recent years points to an unsettling  pattern. The elderly are some of the most vulnerable among us. A 2020 survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), reported a staggering 66% of staff admitted to abusing residents. Nursing home elder abuse is characterized by the mistreatment of elderly individuals who reside in assisted living facilities. One in three nursing home residents have reported some variety of abuse. Before taking preventative measures, it is imperative to first educate yourself on contributing factors, identify different varieties of elder abuse, and learn what to look for if you suspect a loved one is suffering in silence.

Contributing Factors

While anyone can be the victim of abuse, elders who fall under certain groups can find themselves at a higher risk. Justice Quarterly published a study which revealed females are the targets of 67% of all elder abuse cases.  While those suffering from mental illness or impairments account for 50%  of reported cases. Improperly trained caretakers  may become easily frustrated with residents and lack the knowledge and patience to cope with their demands. Staff shortages can result in neglect and if left unchecked, result in extended isolation and inhumane conditions.

Types of Elder Abuse and What to Look For


Sexual abuse constitutes any variety of unwanted sexual contact whether it be touching, forced nudity, oral sex or even rape. Those with dementia pose a heightened risk for suffering this type of abuse. Warning signs include bruising around genitals, unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or infections. Not all signs are physical in nature. Look out for any agitation, withdrawal,  PTSD symptoms, sleep issues or fear of certain caregivers.


Intentionally causing physical harm to a resident including pushing, hitting, and kicking constitutes physical abuse. Look out for any unexplained broken bones or fractures, bruises, welts, or lacerations. The victim may act skittish or timid around their abuser so take note of any unusual interactions with staff members.


Neglectful caregivers may ignore resident’s requests, fail to change soiled clothing and sheets or not provide necessary medications or nutrition. Neglect can result in severe dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, bed sores, sepsis and even wrongful death. Pay attention to poor hygiene, room conditions, and general attentiveness of staff.

What to Do if Your Loved One is a Victim of Elder Abuse

Regularly check on your loved ones so you can properly track any changes in behavior, physical appearance, or emotional wellbeing. Address any concerns with supervisors, nursing directors, doctors, administrators, and social workers. If left unresolved, contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman program or APS. These agencies check on the welfare of nursing home residents to determine if abuse is taking place. Federal and state nursing home abuse laws are in place to ensure nursing facilities provide the highest quality care to residents. If a facility fails to protect residents by ignoring abuse claims or if elders sustain serious or life-threatening injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. 

Contact a Los Angeles Elder Law Attorney

Discussing options with your attorney will help you determine whether or not your case meets the requirements for an elder abuse lawsuit. An experienced attorney from LA Elder Law is happy to speak with you about your unique situation and advise you on the options that are best for you and your loved one. You can contact us directly by calling 310-823-3943 to schedule a free consultation about your unique needs. We look forward to working with you.