Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse violates that trust and can result in serious harm or death to a vulnerable population. It is critical to report nursing home abuse to protect your loved ones and hold facilities accountable.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

Elder abuse is the result of trusted caregivers deliberately harming their patients. Before immediately suspecting abuse, keep in mind that some normal aging and chronic medical conditions can resemble abuse.

Some of these conditions are: 

  • Balance problems that can increase the likelihood of falls
  • Susceptibility to bleeding and bruising because of medical conditions or medications
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diminished healing ability linked to conditions such as diabetes or age

That said, elder abuse is a serious crime that can worsen with time and even turn fatal if not immediately stopped. It is important to report nursing home abuse to national and state agencies that will investigate and hold negligent facilities and caregivers accountable.

Nursing Home Abuse Warning Signs

It is important to document suspected elder abuse the moment your suspicions are raised.

Taking photos and writing down details — including dates and times — helps to establish a pattern and takes the guesswork out of remembering. Proper documentation also strengthens your case if it results in a criminal investigation or lawsuit.

Nursing home abuse might immediately bring to mind physical harm, but the definition is much broader.

In addition to physically hurting someone, nursing home abuse extends to: 

  • Neglect: A deliberate or careless lack of provision for an older person’s safety or physical and emotional needs
  • Sexual abuse: Taking advantage of an older person sexually, either through coercion, force, or abusing their inability to provide consent
  • Emotional abuse: Covers mental anguish caused by insults, distress, threats, and degrading actions
  • Financial abuse: Involves exploiting a nursing home resident in order to gain financial control over them

Signs of abuse can be both emotional and physical. Some of the emotional red flags and physical signs of nursing home abuse are listed in the table below.

Physical Warning SignsEmotional Warning Signs
Cuts, burns, and soresFear or anxiety
Poor nutrition and dehydrationDepression
Broken bones, bruises, and weltsUnresponsiveness
Missing medical devices such as hearing aids, glasses, and medicationsChanges in behavior or sleep

Get Help Reporting Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

If you think your loved one is in immediate danger or experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911 to report nursing home abuse.

Ongoing, long-term abuse should be reported to: 

  • Your state’s adult protective services (APS)
  • Long-term care ombudsman
  • The police

Health care workers are obligated both by law and internal policies to report nursing home abuse. Ignoring abuse carries serious penalties, from discipline to potentially losing a medical license to arrest. Health care workers can also face civil lawsuits for negligence.

Eldercare Locator

Eldercare locator is a federal service that connects the elderly with resources ranging from housing to health. It is also a useful starting point for reporting abuse and finding help for the elderly.

If you are not sure how to reach your state’s APS or ombudsman to report nursing home abuse, an eldercare locator can help you find the appropriate agency.

The Eldercare Locator is available by phone at 1-800-677-1116, Monday through Friday, 9 am – 8 pm Eastern.

National Center on Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse is a clearinghouse of information with the mission of making it easier to identify and report elder abuse.

This is accomplished through education, lobbying for policy changes, and training.

Resources such as the following can be located on their website: 

  • How to identify elder abuse
  • How to report nursing home abuse
  • Ways to spread awareness about elder abuse

Doctors and Medical Experts

It can be difficult for the layman to distinguish between symptoms of ordinary aging and actual abuse.

Easily bruised skin, frequent falls, and dehydration, for instance, are not necessarily evidence of nursing home neglect. That is where a medical expert’s opinion can help.

Doctors and nurses are excellently positioned to uncover elder abuse because they can privately examine patients for physical signs of abuse.

Observant medical experts can also notice tense and mentally abusive relationships with caregivers or spot signs of financial abuse.

Local Authorities

Physical nursing home abuse can leave lasting and permanent damage to its victims. The elderly’s vulnerable health, combined with slower healing, place them at high risk.

If someone is seriously hurt, call 911 immediately for medical attention.

There are several ways law enforcement can put an end to nursing home abuse. It is important to report nursing home abuse to keep your loved one safe.

Law enforcement may be able to assist with getting criminal charges filed for:

  • Assault or homicide
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse that can be considered harassment or elder abuse
  • Coercion by tricking dementia patients for financial gain

Confidential Reporting

Anonymous reporting of nursing home abuse is not allowed in every state, but there are confidentiality provisions in place to protect people who report nursing home abuse.

Confidentiality provisions should provide nursing home employees assurance they can report abuse without facing retaliation from their employer, civil and criminal liability, or professional disciplinary action.


An ombudsman serves as a watchdog and intermediary between long-term care facilities and individuals. They protect the rights of individuals living in long-term care facilities and resolve issues concerning their health and safety.

Every state and several territories were granted an ombudsman program under 1972’s Older Americans Act.

Full-time staff and thousands of volunteers are responsible for: 

  • Advocating and recommending changes in laws and regulations based on their day-to-day experiences with the elderly
  • Intervening for residents seeking government and legal remedies
  • Educating the elderly about their rights and available resources

You can find your state’s ombudsman through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. From there, your concerns and complaints will be followed up on with an investigation.

Let Us Help You

Learn the signs of elder abuse and remain vigilant. Do not be afraid to speak up and report nursing home abuse. The alternative is unnecessary suffering and allowing neglect and abuse to continue with other residents.

Nursing Home Abuse Justice is here to provide a listening ear and counsel if you or a loved one is subject to nursing home abuse. Get a free case review and learn what legal and medical resources you may have available.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: June 4, 2020

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