What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem plaguing the elderly residents of Florida. Although family members believe their loved one will be in the best elderly care possible, this may not always be true. There has been an increasing number of lawsuits against nursing homes and their staff related to injuries resulting from minor neglectfulness to gross negligence and even abuse. If you have a loved one residing in a nursing facility it is prudent to stay diligent and watch for signs of injuries caused by facility neglect.

If you suspect your family member or loved one is being neglected or abused in a nursing home in Tampa, you need to call Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys today. Our team of experienced nursing home abuse attorneys can help you take legal action and complete the steps necessary to filing a claim or lawsuit.

Our attorneys have helped countless families is Tampa, Florida seek compensation for damages due to nursing home abuse and neglect for over 36 years.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Federal nursing home regulations define nursing home abuse as the occurrence of any of the following incidents that result in physical harm, pain, or mental anguish:

  • Infliction of injury
  • Unreasonable confinement or restraint
  • Intimidation
  • Deprivation of care or service
  • Punishment

The above events can be caused directly by a caregiver or other patient, or indirectly by management failing to provide the goods and services needed to avoid physical harm, pain or mental anguish.

Initially, the signs of nursing home abuse may appear to be symptoms of dementia or evidence of the senior’s frailty. It is true that the signs of nursing home abuse do mirror symptoms of mental decline. However, that is only more reason to be alert and protect your loved one from any inappropriate action.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

There are a number of forms of abuse that could be present in a nursing home. Here are a few of the most common types of abuse and neglect, and things to be on the lookout for if you suspect it may be happening to your loved one.

Physical or Sexual Abuse

Physical abuse is usually the most evident form of nursing home abuse. Physical abuse can take the form of hitting, pushing or heavy gripping that causes pain, bruising or injury. Sexual abuse, or contact with a senior without their consent, is another form of physical abuse. In addition, unnecessary restraints, confinement to a certain area by removing a wheelchair or walker, and inappropriate use of drugs are considered physical abuse.

Signs of physical abuse you should look for include:

  • Bruising, welts, scars and other unexplained signs of injury
  • Broken bones
  • Over-medication or sedation
  • Signs of restraint on wrists or ankles
  • Vaginal or anal bleeding
  • Torn or stained underclothing
  • Change in weight
  • Dehydration
  • Bedsores
  • Unexplained emotional changes

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when someone speaks to or treats a senior in ways that cause emotional pain or distress. This can include intimidation, yelling, or humiliation. Other forms of emotional abuse include ignoring the elderly person, isolating them from friends and activities, or menacing them.

Signs of emotional abuse are harder to spot than physical abuse. Emotional abuse may be a concern if you see:

  • The senior exhibits fear or alarm around a caregiver
  • Your loved one blames themselves for minor or irrelevant problems
  • The senior exhibits false signs of dementia such as depression, mumbling, or rocking back and forth

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is the unlawful use of an elderly person’s funds or property. A dishonest caregiver or employee might steal checks or money from the senior, commit identity theft or steal other personal property. In addition, financial abuse can occur through health care fraud or abuse, including billing for services not given to the patient, over-billing or double billing and insurance fraud.

The senior’s family should stay very involved in their finances and be on the lookout for any of the following signs that might indicate financial abuse:

  • Frequent unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
  • Recurring reports by the senior of lost property
  • Duplicate billings or other discrepancies in the medical bills
  • Evident problems with the care facility, including poorly trained or inadequate staff, resident crowding, and management ignoring your questions about care


Neglect is the failure to care for a senior properly. Neglect can stem from incompetent caregivers, lack of resources or denial as to the level of care the elderly person needs. If neglect results in serious injury or potential harm, it is abuse. The abuse caused by neglect makes up a large percentage of nursing home abuse that is reported.

If you suspect nursing home abuse caused by neglect, look for the following signs:

  • Weight loss, signs of malnutrition, or dehydration
  • Bedsores
  • Unsanitary living conditions such as soiled bedding or closing, dirt, or bugs
  • Inappropriate clothing for the season

Common Injuries Resulting From Nursing Home Neglect

While many of the following injuries are the result of true accidents caused by falls, trips, or other innocent misfortune, the possibilities of these injuries being due to nursing home negligence are greater and warrant a diligent inquiry on your part.

Injuries to a Bed-Bound Patient

If you notice unexplained signs of injury on a patient that has limited mobility or has to stay in bed, you should ask questions. Dehydration or malnutrition can be signs that the staff is not adhering to an adequate nutritional schedule. Severe infections or bedsores, as well as unexplained bruises, cuts, signs of restraint or other injuries may be the result of neglect or even abuse. The less mobile a patient is, the less of a chance that they will experience legitimate injury, so be on the lookout.

Over or Under Medication

Nursing home injuries are often the result of over or under medication. A patient who has been overmedicated or undermedicated may exhibit physical or behavioral changes such as confusion or fatigue, chronic pain, or physical illness. If you see a swing in your loved one’s mood or a sudden, unexplained change in their health, it’s time to explore the reasons for the change.

General Neglect

While the neglect causing nursing home accidents may not be intentional, understaffing and overcrowding in many nursing facilities can result in damage. Be on the lookout for signs of neglect in the nursing home environment, including dirt, soiled bedding or clothing, inadequate clothing for the weather, or elders sitting alone and unattended for long periods of time.

Injuries from Falls, Slips, and Trips

The CDC estimates that about 1,800 people die from nursing home falls each year. While many falls are caused by muscle weakness and frailty of the elderly, environmental hazards, such as wet floors, low lighting or incorrectly fitting medical equipment also contribute to a large number of nursing home falls.

What Should I Do If I Suspect A Nursing Home Injury Stems From More Than An Accident?

It can be difficult to know what actions to take when you notice your loved one has suffered unexplained nursing home injuries. You don’t want to overreact and accuse the facility or its staff unduly, but your senior deserves protection if there is any neglect or abuse taking place. Here are some actions you can take.

Talk to People

Ask your loved one how they sustained the injury. They may have an immediate answer that seems to be credible, in which case you may want to be extra diligent for a while just to confirm the incident was isolated. If you don’t feel comfortable with the answer you received from your loved one, ask other patients and even staff what occurred.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

As you walk through the nursing facility keep your eyes open for signs of neglect or evidence that the staff is not taking the care with patient safety that they should. Is there adequate staff in the hallways and public areas to watch patients as they move about? Observe the bed and other equipment in your senior’s room and stick around when the staff comes in for treatments in order to observe their approach. Do they take care in transferring your loved one in and out of bed?

Escalate the Problem

After you have observed the lay of the land, you may feel that the nursing home injury does indeed stem from more than a common accident. At that point, you should feel comfortable in escalating the problem by reporting the possible abuse.

Confide in a trusted doctor or alert the authorities who can get you in touch with the proper contacts to further investigate the facility. When you report possible elder abuse, you want to be as specific as you can to help the investigators to understand the situation and expedite the investigation. Once you have reported your suspicions, an investigation should commence by the social services agency responsible.

Contact an Elder Care Law Attorney

In addition to escalating the investigation in order to protect all of the patients in the nursing home, you may want to contact an attorney that specializes in elder care law. They will be able to help you determine if legal action against the nursing home is advised. In most states, victims of nursing home negligence or abuse can file civil lawsuits for pain and suffering and medical negligence. An experienced elder law attorney can help ensure your legal rights are protected.

Related: How to Report Nursing Home Injuries and Abuse.

What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

If you observe repeated signs of nursing home abuse and suspect a senior is the victim of abuse, take action on their behalf. Taking a wait and see attitude is not appropriate if the elderly person is likely suffering. They have the right to be protected. Notify the authorities if you suspect an immediate danger to any of the nursing home residents. Consult with a lawyer who specializes in elder law to see if your suspicions are founded. They have the experience to advise whether you have a case against the facility and what further action is recommended.

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