Types of abuse in nursing homes

It’s not an easy decision to put a loved one in a nursing home and when you do you want to be confident that they are getting the best care. But unfortunately, nursing home abuse happens. Abuse can come in many different forms, and when people speak of abuse you often assume they’re referring to the physical kind. However, abuse can also be mental, neglectful or financial. If someone you love is in a home, you must understand the types of abuse. This will allow you to recognize it when it happens and respond by getting professional help. 


Emotional abuse involves distressing a resident or frightening them. It can include name-calling, humiliating, intimidating, isolating, threatening or not allowing them to access things. Signs include:

  • Suddenly depressed or withdrawn
  • Scared of particular people
  • Low self-esteem
  • Changes in behavior and mood swings.
  • Becoming aggressive
  • Different sleep or eating patterns
  • Avoiding eye contact


Physical abuse is the intentional use of force against someone. Physical harm could also be caused by withdrawal or overuse of medication. This can result in bruises, broken bones, dislocations or extreme cases even death. 

This can be hard to spot, especially if someone is prone to falling or bruises easily. You may want to watch out for:

  • A pattern of the same injuries
  • Delayed medical care after an injury
  • A dislike for certain individuals
  • Poor explanations for the injury
  • Change in behavior or withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy


Neglect is where a person’s needs are not met. For example, perhaps they are not given their medication or denied food or sufficient water. They could also be denied activities or not be taken to the toilet when they need it. Another form of neglect is being left in dirty clothes, a dirty room or be left soiled. They could also be left in bed or their room when they would rather be out. 

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Some elderly people prefer to be left alone and their choices should always be taken into consideration. However, if they want to be doing things and are not given the opportunity then this could be neglect.

Another form of neglect could be abandoning an elderly person, leaving them at a care facility or hospital without this being arranged. 

Neglect is perhaps the most common type of abuse. 


Sexual abuse is unwanted or forced sexual contact. Or if an elderly person has a condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia then they are prevented from consenting. Signs may be:

  • Bleeding from the genitals or anus
  • New STIs
  • Bruising especially in the inner thighs
  • Emotional or social withdrawal
  • Bloody or torn clothes or underwear


Financial abuse is the improper or unauthorized use of a person’s resources. This could include someone taking their money or valuable belongings. Some people with dementia may want to give things away, however, careers are not usually allowed to accept gifts. Signs could be:

  • Missing property
  • Lack of documentation for finances
  • An elderly person doesn’t know about their finances
  • Unexplained statements

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