It’s time to transition your elderly loved one to a nursing home or assisted living center. You’ve done your research and compared facilities, and you feel good about your choice.

But what if Grandma says she doesn’t like her new home? Is she just cranky and adjusting to the many changes that come with transitioning to more supervised care? Or could something else be going on.

Know the definitions and signs of elder abuse so you can make sure your elderly loved ones are safe and happy.

Different Kinds of Elder Abuse

Physical harm is what typically comes to mind when we think of elder abuse. However, people in nursing homes can be vulnerable to many different types of abuse.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

The CDC considers any “verbal or nonverbal behavior that results in the infliction of anguish, mental pain, fear, or distress” to be psychological abuse. This can include malicious teasing, humiliation, threats, or placing someone in extreme isolation.

Financial Exploitation

Financial abuse can cover a wide array of behavior. The most obvious kind of abuse involves stealing from a patient, but any sort of exploitation of a patient’s resources for the gain of the caregiver can constitute abuse.

Physical Abuse

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe physical abuse as “the intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death.”

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a nursing home resident is the victim of “forced and/or unwanted sexual action” – with or without touching. For someone who is impaired to the point that they cannot consent, any sexual situation can be considered abusive.


Even without purposefully harming a nursing home resident, a caregiver can be guilty of neglect. Sometimes neglect is a result of inadequate staffing but just failing to keep a patient hydrated or well-fed, for example, can constitute neglect.

Signs of Elder Abuse

  • Physical signs: broken bones, bruising or cuts, bed sores, frequent infections, dehydration, weight loss, poor personal hygiene, burns, welts
  • Emotional signs: mood swings or unusual outbursts, reclusiveness, refusing to speak, changes in ability to think, withdrawal from normal activities, depression, heightened alertness
  • Other signs: A guilty caregiver may prevent the patient from being alone with you

Who Might Commit Elder Abuse?

Most people who work in nursing homes or assisted living centers are good people who find fulfillment in offering compassionate care to people. Nursing homes do their best to check backgrounds and hire qualified individuals, but abusers sometimes make it past the screening process.

People involved in abusive behaviors can be anyone admitted to the facility, including:

  • Caregivers, including doctors, nurses, or other facility staff
  • Other residents of the home
  • People who visit your loved one
  • People who visit other residents of the facility


If you think a loved one may be experiencing elder abuse in a nursing home or assisted living center, take action immediately. To explore your family’s rights and options, talk to one of our nursing home abuse lawyers.