What Is Considered Nursing Home Neglect: 6 Signs To Know About

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: January 17, 2023
Last updated: October 13, 2023

In the U.S., about 1.6 million seniors live in nursing homes, and another 1 million live in residential care facilities like assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect and cases of abuse are becoming serious problems across the country. This raises grave concerns, as studies show one in six people 60 and older have experienced some form of abuse.

Neglect and abuse can seriously affect seniors’ physical and mental health. It can result in depression, anxiety, physical injuries, cognitive decline, and even death. Families must recognize the symptoms to understand what is considered nursing home neglect and protect their loved ones.

What Is Considered Nursing Home Neglect

Signs Of Nursing Home Neglect

Abuse of older people is prevalent in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, where 2 in 3 staff members report committing or witnessing senior abuse. Recent studies on the abuse of older people by the World Health Organization show that 64.2% of staff perpetrated some form of abuse during the past year in institutional settings.

It is tragically common for nursing home staff to neglect elderly residents. According to reports by the National Center on Elder Abuse, 95% of nursing home residents have been neglected or seen it happen to others.

When a person is neglected, they are not given the type of care they need. The level of nursing home facilities and care may vary from case to case, but residents often receive basic hygiene assistance, help with meals, and assist to move around.

6 Signs Of Neglect In Seniors

Knowing the warning signs of neglect can help prevent it from damaging your loved one physically and psychologically. Even though the neglect signs can vary, a combination of these red flags may indicate a problem:

Psychological Issues

Neglect can lead to emotional problems for elderly residents in the same way physical abuse does, especially for patients suffering from dementia. They may become fearful of their caregiver and unwilling to discuss their issues, making them resentful and angry. At times, residents become isolated from family and friends, become depressed, and shut themselves off from others. 

It is important to take all emotional changes seriously and to address them immediately. Individuals may also neglect themselves due to these issues, for example, by refusing food and medications and failing to take proper care of themselves.

Mobility Loss Or Impairment

Nursing home residents often have mobility issues. In a good facility, nursing home employees assist residents in moving around, exercising, and staying active. It is common for facilities to utilize walking programs and activities for building muscle tone and strength, increasing circulation, improving balance, and reducing contractures and spasms.

When someone is neglected, they may be left bedridden for long periods of time, possibly resulting in permanent disability. Bedsores and infections can also occur without routine movement.

Unexplained Injuries

Injuries such as bruises and broken bones may indicate abuse, negligence, or mistreatment. People not receiving the assistance they need may attempt to help themselves. It can be as simple as walking without assistance, leading to falls and other injuries.

CDC statistics show that about 1,800 older adults die annually in nursing homes from injuries sustained in such falls. On average, nursing home seniors fall two or more times each year. Surviving people often suffer permanent disabilities, chronic pain, and reduced quality of life. While all these falls may not result from neglect, the CDC suggests nursing homes take several safety measures to prevent them.

Dietary Inadequacies

Malnourishment, medication errors, and dehydration can also be caused by neglect of the residents' well-being. Millions of nursing home residents suffer from poor nutrition and weight loss, whether it is deliberately caused by of a lack of supervision or oversight. According to recent research, 20% of nursing home residents worldwide suffer from malnutrition.

Dehydration and malnutrition in senior residents can be caused by staffing shortages, insufficient individualized care, and high turnover among nurses and aides. Also, depression and swallowing problems can contribute to the problem.

Lack Of Hygiene

Nurses and other nursing home caregivers are responsible for helping residents maintain basic personal hygiene in the care facility. Nursing home resident needs assistance dressing, brushing their teeth, trimming their nails, bathing, and combing their hair. When neglected, a person is left to fend for themselves but is often unable to do so.

A nursing home with inadequate staff can not provide proper hygiene routines for its residents. Staff members may also lack formal training in proper health care. Many nursing homes nationwide fail to provide routine dental care to residents.

Unsanitary Living Environment

Providing clean and safe living conditions to nursing home residents is required by law. Failure to do so may indicate neglect. State and federal laws require nursing homes to have an infection control program to ensure a sanitary, safe, and comfortable living environment. However, many facilities face limitations and understaffing and can not provide the required attention and services.

It is the facility's responsibility to ensure seniors' clothing and bedding are clean. Kitchen and bathroom cleanliness is also crucial. Health-related issues can result from neglecting these duties.

Ask For Help At The First Sign

Nursing home neglect can harm elderly residents physically and psychologically. Knowing what is considered nursing home neglect or abuse can help protect your loved one. Report nursing home abuse to the police, law enforcement, or Adult Protective Services immediately if you or someone you know has been abused.

If you are considering retirement housing options for seniors, you have several to choose from. Most seniors in the United States prefer assisted living over nursing homes if they need long-term, personal care. Choosing the best assisted living facility for seniors can be difficult, but our Senior Strong guide can assist you. If you want to learn more, visit our article that discusses about common complaints about nursing homes.

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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