/ / 7 Things You Need To Do If Your Parent Suffers Abuse In A Nursing Home

7 Things You Need To Do If Your Parent Suffers Abuse In A Nursing Home

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Nursing homes are supposed to provide quality care and support for the elderly. However, abuse and neglect occur far too often in some of these facilities. According to a study, over 24% of nursing home residents experience at least one form of abuse or neglect in nursing homes. This abuse can take many forms: physical, sexual, emotional, financial exploitation, and neglect. 

As heartbreaking as it is, you must look for signs of abuse and be prepared to take action if you suspect your parent or older loved one is being mistreated. Here are seven vital steps to take if you suspect your elderly parent is suffering abuse in a nursing home.

Look For Physical Signs Of Abuse

You must check your parent’s physical condition when visiting them in a nursing home. Unexplained injuries like bruises, cuts, bed sores, or broken bones often point to physical abuse. Another red flag is sudden unaccounted-for weight loss, poor hygiene, and unkempt hair and clothes, which can signal neglect. Make sure to carefully observe your parent from head to toe and document any concerning changes with detailed notes and photos. Ask your parent about any marks or wounds and gauge their reaction. Physical abuse most often occurs when a parent has a disability that makes them fully reliant on the nursing home staff for care and mobility.

If you find any questionable injuries or signs of neglect, take immediate action. Report it to the nursing home administrator and push for a prompt investigation. Consulting a nursing home abuse attorney at this stage can also be beneficial, as they can advise on potential legal avenues and assist in gathering evidence. Consult your parent’s doctor as well to medically assess their condition—advocate for increased supervision and accountability. You may need to file a complaint with state regulatory agencies or law enforcement if the facility doesn’t respond adequately. 

Notice Behavioral Changes

Look for sudden major changes in your parents’ mood and behavior. For example, a parent who is typically cheerful and friendly becoming withdrawn, anxious, depressed, or afraid could signal emotional abuse or neglect at the nursing home. Verbal outbursts, insults, threats, and intimidation by staff can cause emotional trauma. 

Don’t assume it’s abuse without ruling out other possibilities first, like the progression of dementia. But drastic mood shifts in a short time warrant attention. Ask them gently about how they are treated and if they have any concerns. Report any potential emotional abuse to the nursing home administrator and push for an investigation. In the meantime, consult mental health services to help them cope and recover. With support, many effects of emotional abuse can be reversed.

Review Their Finances

Carefully review all your parent’s bank and credit card statements, investment accounts, and bills each month. Watch for any unauthorized charges, transfers, withdrawals, or new account signers. Someone misusing a power of attorney to access accounts is a big red flag.

Immediately report any suspicious financial activity to the nursing home’s administrator, your parent’s bank, credit card company, investment firm, and the police. Freeze accounts if needed to prevent further losses. Reclaim any stolen funds and change account access. Ask the nursing home to increase supervision and security. Financial abuse thrives in secrecy, so casting light on it quickly can halt the exploitation. 

Observe Staff Interactions

Make surprise visits at different times to discreetly observe how the staff interacts with your parent. Raising voices, insults, arguing, or emotional outbursts are highly concerning. Your parent appearing afraid or withdrawn around certain staff members is a major red flag.

Report any problematic staff interactions immediately to the nursing home administrator. Share specific details and demand improved training and accountability. If issues persist, file formal complaints with state agencies to prompt investigation. Facility-wide problems like understaffing and high turnover also increase the risk of abuse and neglect. In extreme cases, you may need to transfer your parent to a facility with better supervision. Watching staff interactions and speaking out can help ensure your parents’ treatment meets proper care standards.

Talk To Your Parent

Have an open conversation with your parent to find out if they feel safe and comfortable in the nursing home. Ask if the staff members treat them well and are responsive to their needs. Make it clear you are there to help if anything is wrong. Your parent may be reluctant to share details initially out of fear of retaliation from the abusive staff. Be understanding and patient, building trust over multiple conversations.

Watch for clues like anxiety discussing the matter, implausible explanations for injuries or sudden reluctance to talk to you. Reassure your parent that you believe them, will protect their privacy, and that abuse is never their fault—document details for a formal complaint. Your support can help your parent find the courage to open up. Speaking up is difficult, but breaking the silence is key to ending abuse. With compassion and resolve, you can help your parent safely share their experience.

Report Suspected Abuse

If you suspect any abuse or neglect, immediately report it. In most states, anyone can file a report, not just your parent. Contact your local long-term care ombudsman program and state survey agency. You can also report to law enforcement and Adult Protective Services. File a formal written complaint with the nursing home administrator, documenting your specific concerns and demanding a prompt, thorough investigation.

Reporting suspected abuse is essential to protect your parent and hold perpetrators accountable. Though uncomfortable, speaking out can prevent further harm. With authorities on alert, abusive staff will know they are being watched and face consequences for misconduct. Your vigilance in reporting makes all the difference.

Explore Alternatives

If the nursing home does not respond appropriately to address the abuse, start looking at alternative facilities. While finding and vetting options takes time, you may need to remove your parent quickly if the abuse is severe. Can your parent return home with live-in help? Is another nearby facility better rated? Consult a lawyer if the nursing home stonewalls a discharge.

Make sure any new placement has strong safety ratings and management. Transition slowly, if possible, to reduce stress. With patience and diligence, you can find a setting where your parent gets attentive, respectful care. Though difficult, leaving an abusive facility is sometimes the only way to ensure your parent’s well-being. Their health, safety, and peace of mind should drive any decision.


No parent deserves to suffer abuse in their golden years. While nursing homes aim to provide compassionate care, the reality can sometimes be much different. As painful as it is, we must vigilantly advocate for elderly parents. Picking the signs of abuse quickly and speaking out can help stop mistreatment in its tracks. With early intervention and reporting, we can keep loved ones safe.

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