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What are some of the signs of abuse of nursing home residents?

Signs of abuse include, but are not limited to:


  • Change bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • A sudden change in alertness and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may be the result of exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses or those who should be in a position of trust are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person are also signs.

I suspect that my loved one is being abused by nursing home staff. What should I do?

The suspicion that your loved one is being hurt by those who are entrusted to their care is an awful feeling. You can report suspected abuse by contacting Illinois Department Public Health. You can also contact the Long-Term Ombudsman Program for your area.

A third option is to contact your local police.

If you feel that the resident is in danger, make arrangements for him or her to move as soon as possible.

What should I do if I suspect that my loved one is at risk for falling?

Nursing homes are required to conduct a fall-risk assessment and implementation of a fall prevention plan for every resident. Be sure that your nursing home has such a plan in place for your loved one. If there is no plan, request an assessment and ask to see the plan once the assessment is completed. If there already is a plan for your resident, make sure the nursing home is following it.


Talk to the nursing home director about factors that affect the safety of at-risk residents, such as environmental hazards like wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height, and walking areas that are not clear.

What do I do if my loved one is suffering from bedsores?

Talk to the nursing home director and/or staff about implementing a plan to minimize bedsores. Make sure your loved one is being repositioned frequently enough and correctly, especially if he or she uses a wheelchair or is confined to bed. Also, be sure that your loved one is getting exercise as well as good skincare and nutrition, whether on his or her own, or with the assistance of staff.

What should I do if I think nursing home staff is using restraints inappropriately?

Many state laws prohibit the use of restraints unless ordered by a physician who documents the need for such restraint. Restraints may be used only with the informed consent of the resident, and only for specific periods of time and the least restrictive means necessary, unless in the case of an emergency, in which case the restraint is permitted only for a brief period in order to administer medical treatment.


If your loved one has been restrained, either physically or chemically you may want to express your unhappiness with the nursing home director. If you are uncomfortable with this route, file a complaint with the state’s Department of Health or your local long-term ombudsman.


If you feel that your loved one is in danger, you may want to call the police and make arrangements for the resident to move as soon as possible..

I noticed that my loved one chokes a lot while eating. What should I do about this?

Choking is most often caused by dysphagia, which is the discomfort or difficulty in swallowing food. In order to avoid choking, your loved one should be examined by a physician to evaluate the severity of the dysphagia. The physician will make a recommendation on what forms of food and what the resident should eat. This recommendation should be placed in the resident’s chart so that all caregivers are familiar with the resident’s eating plan. Once the plan is in place, be sure to follow up to make sure it is being followed by nursing home staff.

How should I choose a nursing home for a loved one with a habit of wandering?

When evaluating potential nursing homes, investigate whether the residence has preventative measures against wandering in place, such as:


  • Providing staff with proper training and support;
  • Close monitoring of residents with dementia;
  • Encouraging at-risk residents to sit at the table with other residents during mealtime;
  • Facilitating social contact between at-risk and staff or low-risk residents;
  • Establishing controlled indoor and outdoor areas;
  • Posting signs to remind visitors not to assist residents in leaving the home;
  • Providing walking companions;
  • Use of transmitting devices to notify staff when alarms are activated;
  • Establishing a formal search procedure for staff; and
  • Keeping photographs of residents on file, and installing a surveillance system.


If the nursing home does not have preventative measures in place, you may want to look for a home that specializes in residents with dementia, who are at greater risk of wandering.

What should I do if I am worried that my loved one suffers from poor nutrition at the nursing home?

You have good cause to worry, because 35-85% of nursing home residents in the United States are malnourished. The cause of malnutrition is often difficult to determine because most residents are ultimately in control of what they eat. However, adequate staffing and training, careful monitoring, and the preparation of appealing and nutritious meals are an important first step to preventing malnutrition in nursing home residents.


Nursing homes are required to perform a comprehensive health assessment (called the Resident Assessment Instrument, or RAI) upon admission, at least annually, and when a significant change in health status occurs. This tool includes assessment of malnutrition, weight loss, and the ability to feed oneself. If you suspect that your loved one suffers from malnutrition or poor nutrition, request a RAI assessment. Following the assessment, monitor your resident to make sure the nursing home is following the recommendations from the assessment.

I don’t think my loved one is getting enough care or attention at the nursing home. What should I do?

Although The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends an optimum staffing level of 1 hour RN time and 3 hours nurse’s aide time per day per resident, Federal law requires nursing homes only “to provide sufficient staff and services to attain or maintain the highest possible level of physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.


The state of Illinois requires 3.8 hours of daily nursing and personal care for residents needing skilled care, and 2.5 hours of daily nursing and personal care are required for a resident needing intermediate care, with a minimum of 25% of nursing and personal care time to be provided by licensed nurses, and 10% by registered nurses.


Make sure your nursing home resident is getting the number of hours and level of care required by law. If the nursing home is falling short, talk to the director about your concern and monitor your loved one carefully to make sure he or she is getting proper services. If the neglect rises to the level of abuse or results in injury, make plans for your loved one to move as soon as possible.

Who is responsible for regulating nursing homes?

The Illinois Department of Public Health is the governmental organization often most responsible for licensing nursing homes and monitoring complaints. Visit their website to search for information about your nursing home, find out if a nursing home has been cited for violations, or to file a complaint.

What should I do if I suspect my loved one died as a result of nursing home neglect or abuse?

File a report with your local police and contact us for help immediately.

Is there a federal nursing home law?

Yes, the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act.

What relief can I get if I sue the nursing home for my loved one’s injury or death?

Depending on the circumstance, you (as next of kin), your loved one’s estate, or your loved one’s personal representative, could sue for actual monetary and/or pain and suffering damages.


Contact us at 1-800-MALPRACTICE ® (800-625-7722) for a free consultation. We are ready to help.