Types of Nursing Home Abuse

If your parent or other elderly relative lives in a nursing home, you must be vigilant about the care that he or she receives. You should also understand the different types of abuse and neglect that occur in nursing homes and recognize signs of mistreatment. If you have reason to believe a loved one has suffered harm due to nursing home abuse or neglect, you should seek help from an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer right away.

At Buckman & Buckman, P.A., we know that putting a loved one in a nursing home can be one of the hardest decisions in a family’s life. This makes it absolutely devastating when you discover that the people you trusted to care for your loved one betrayed that trust and allowed your loved one to suffer injury or neglect.  You can count on our team of dedicated attorneys and staff to fight for the justice your loved one deserves.

Since 1998, our firm has handled these complex and sensitive cases in Sarasota and surrounding communities in Florida. We are a family-run law firm that understands how nursing home abuse and neglect deeply affects families, including the specific types of abuse that we discuss below. We are ready to help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Physical Abuse

In 1987, Congress passed sweeping legislation that created major protections for residents of nursing homes. This law was known as the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, and it included a statute called the Nursing Home Reform Act. These laws give residents certain rights, including the right to:

  • Be free from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
  • Be free from unnecessary and harmful physical restraints
  • Have privacy
  • Have all medical, physical, psychological and social needs met
  • Participate in activities and family groups
  • Be treated with basic human respect and dignity
  • Exercise self-determination
  • Communicate freely with loved ones and other visitors
  • Participate in their own care plan and be informed about changes in care
  • Voice grievances without retribution.

When a nursing home intentionally violates any of these rights, it can be classified as a form of abuse.  Of course, certain types of abuse are more common than others. Physical abuse can include:

  • Slapping or other forms of hitting
  • Using physical or chemical restraints
  • Confining a resident.

If your loved one suffers from unexplained cuts or bruises in areas such as the back, wrists or ankles, it may indicate that he or she is being subjected to physical abuse. When marks on someone’s body have the same shape or pattern, it may indicate that someone has intentionally inflicted harm.

Emotional Abuse

It is never acceptable for a nursing home staff worker to shout at or belittle a resident. Just imagine being yelled at in your own home, having no ability to speak out against what is happening to you or feeling helpless or intimidated while sitting in your own room? Emotional abuse is ugly, and it is often hidden and hard to discover in nursing homes.

When you visit your loved one in a nursing home, you should ask yourself:

  • Does your loved one seem nervous when you leave or try to keep you from leaving the room?
  • Does your loved one change or become anxious around a certain staff member?
  • Does he or she beg you not to complain about problems or fear retaliation?
  • Has he or she withdrawn and become distant or afraid to talk about life in the facility?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you loved one may be the victim of emotional abuse. You should be ready to take immediate action.

Sexual Abuse

Any act committed without a resident’s consent is a form of sexual assault or abuse. As horrifying as it may sound, sexual predators often use nursing home jobs to find vulnerable victims who are too frail or incapacitated to fight back or speak out about their crimes. Nursing home managers and owners may even know about what is happening but attempt to hide it for fear of paying fines or getting sued.

You should look for:

  • Bruising to legs or private areas
  • Pain in private areas
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unexplained urinary tract infections
  • Depression or withdraw
  • Terror or anxious behavior when a certain staff member comes around
  • A worker who doesn’t seem to want to leave you alone with your loved one.

If your loved one displays any of these signs, they are “red flags” that indicate potential sexual abuse.


Neglect is often just as bad as abuse. It happens when a nursing home fails to provide your loved one with basic care and services. For instance, staff may simply fail to reposition a resident who needs to be occasionally moved to avoid bedsores. Or, perhaps, the nursing home may fail to provide food and liquids, which can cause a resident to suffer malnutrition or dehydration. These acts of passive neglect can be fatal for an already vulnerable and ill individual.

The following may all be signs of neglect of your loved one:

  • Lack of food or water
  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Infections
  • Bedsores
  • Falls and fractures
  • Medication errors
  • Rapid deterioration in condition.

Financial Exploitation

Sometimes, caregivers and overly “friendly” individuals look for ways to financially exploit an elderly nursing home resident. This can happen by changing a will or power of attorney without the resident knowing about it. Sometimes, a family member may get a resident with diminished mental capacity to sign over bank accounts or deeds to real estate.

You should look for signs of financial exploitation such as:

  • Unexpected changes to real estate, bank accounts or estate planning documents
  • Unexpected transactions on bank statements.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Abuse or Neglect of Your Loved One?

If you suspect that someone you care about is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, or if your loved one has died due to neglect or abuse, you should take the following steps:

  • Call 911 and get emergency assistance right away.
  • File a report through the Florida Elder Abuse Hotline at (800) 96-ABUSE.
  • Contact your local ombudsman by calling (888) 831-0404 or submitting a complaint through the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman website.
  • Get help from an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer right away and learn more about your legal options.

Our Sarasota Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Are Here for You

With more than 20 years of experience handling complex nursing home abuse and neglect cases for our clients, Buckman & Buckman, P.A., is ready to help you. We understand that when you have lost someone you love, or you have watched a loved one suffer at the hands of careless or abusive caregivers and nursing home staff, it can be devastating and frustrating. Our goal is to help you to get through this difficult time and seek the justice you deserve.

When you hire us to handle your case, we will treat you like family. Contact us today to schedule a free, private consultation to discuss your case.