Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse and neglect can result in serious harm or death to older Americans everywhere. It’s critical to report nursing home abuse to protect your loved ones and hold facilities accountable. Learn how you can report nursing home abuse.

Nursing Home Abuse Reporting Options

Nursing home abuse is a serious crime that can worsen with time and even turn fatal if not stopped. Thankfully, there are many avenues through which you can report nursing home abuse, including local, state, and national agencies.

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

Nursing home abuse can also be reported by:

  • Contacting your state’s adult protective services (APS)
  • Connecting with a long-term care ombudsman
  • Working with doctors and other medical personnel
  • Calling a nursing home abuse hotline

By reporting nursing home abuse using one of these options, you can trigger an investigation into an older person’s well-being. You may even be able to hold nursing homes accountable if the facility is responsible for the harm caused to your loved one.

Nursing Home Abuse Types and Warning Signs

Nursing home abuse might immediately bring physical harm to mind. While that’s certainly a part of it, the definition is much broader.

Along with physical harm, types of nursing home abuse can include:

  • Neglect: A complete lack of care for a nursing home patient’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 if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Emotional abuse: This includes mental anguish caused by insults or threats
  • Financial abuse: Stealing a resident’s money through scams

Examples of 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

Documenting Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

If you believe your loved one is being abused, note any possible signs the moment your suspicions are raised.

Keeping track of the signs of nursing home abuse can make the reporting process easier later on. Proper documentation also strengthens your case if it results in a criminal investigation or lawsuit.

To start, write down when you first noticed negative changes in your loved one and include as much detail as possible (including dates and times).

It may also be appropriate to take photos as evidence if you believe your loved one is suffering from neglect or physical abuse.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

Once you have noted possible signs of nursing home abuse, you can report them to the proper authorities. Below, learn more about the options to report abuse and which one may be the best fit for your situation.


An ombudsman serves as a middleman between long-term care facilities and residents. They protect the rights of nursing home patients and resolve issues concerning their health and safety.

All states and several territories were granted a long-term care ombudsman program under 1972’s Older Americans Act.

Full-time staff and volunteer ombudsmen are responsible for:

  • Advocating and recommending changes in laws and regulations based on their day-to-day experiences with older Americans
  • Intervening for residents seeking government and legal remedies
  • Educating older people 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 addressed through an investigation.

Local Authorities

Local authorities, such as the police or your state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) branch, are both great options to report nursing home abuse.

Calling the police can help you take immediate action if someone has been seriously harmed or if you think their life is in danger due to abuse or neglect.

Law enforcement may be able to file criminal charges for:

  • Assault or homicide
  • Emotional abuse or harassment
  • Sexual or financial coercion

If you are unsure whether abuse or neglect is taking place, you can call your APS branch. A social worker will determine if mistreatment has occurred and, if needed, make contact with the senior to keep them safe.

To find phone numbers for local branches of the APS, visit the National Adult Protective Services Association website.

Eldercare Locator

The Eldercare Locator is a federal service sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It connects seniors to local resources ranging from housing and health to other government programs.

Learn more by calling the toll-free elder and nursing home abuse hotline at 1-800-677-1116. Operators are standing by Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. You may also visit

National Center on Elder Abuse

Established in 1988 as part of the Administration on Aging (AoA), the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is a hub of information and resources.

Today, this advocacy group works to make it easier to spot abuse through education, lobbying for policy changes, and training.

Through the NCEA, you can learn how to:

  • Identify and report nursing home abuse
  • Spread awareness about elder abuse
  • Connect with local elder support resources

Doctors and Medical Experts

It can be difficult for the average person to distinguish between symptoms of normal aging and actual mistreatment. Easily bruised skin, frequent falls, and dehydration, for instance, are not necessarily evidence of nursing home neglect or abuse.

That is where a medical expert’s opinion can help.

Quote from Amy Berman, Registered Nurse at the John A. Hartford Foundation

“[Doctors] are in a unique place to be able to comprehensively look at a patient. They have an opportunity to identify elder abuse and to reach out to the community or make appropriate referrals to break the cycle of violence or neglect.”

Doctors and nurses can privately examine patients for physical signs of abuse. They can also notice any strange emotional changes or spot signs of financial abuse in some cases.

Confidential Reporting

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

These provisions should reassure nursing home employees that they can report abuse without facing disciplinary action from their employer or civil/criminal liability.

Remember that health care workers are obligated both by law and internal policies at assisted living facilities to report abuse and neglect.

Ignoring abuse carries serious penalties, from being fired to losing a medical license to arrest. Health care workers can also face civil lawsuits for negligence.

Next Steps to Report Nursing Home Abuse

By reporting nursing home abuse, you and your family members can begin to heal from the undeserved harm brought to you. Reporting abuse also helps bring to justice those responsible and prevent future mistreatment.

If you still have questions or concerns about reporting nursing home abuse, connect with our team. Our Patient Advocates can assess possible cases of nursing home abuse or neglect and recommend next steps for you to take.

You can also learn if financial compensation is available to cover medical treatments and other expenses.

Get started today with a free case review.

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: November 5, 2020

View 9 References
  1. Administration for Community Living. (n.d.) Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  2. Butterfield, Stacey (January 2019) See, and then stop, elderly abuse. ACP Hospitalist. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  3. Department of Justice. (n.d.) Additional Charges using Elder Justice Initiative Definitions. Retrieved on June 3, 2020 from

  4. National Adult Protective Services Association. (n.d.) Facts About Confidentiality. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  5. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.) Red Flags of Abuse. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  6. National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.) What We Do. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  7. Registered Nursing. (n.d.) What Should a Nurse Do if they Suspect a Patient is a Victim of Abuse? Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  8. Stanford Medicine Elder Abuse. (n.d.) Documenting in the Medical Record. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  9. U.S. Department of Human and Health Services. (n.d.) How do I report abuse elder abuse or abuse of an older person or senior? Retrieved June 3, 2020 from