Common Signs of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can come in many different forms, and this is by no means a complete list of the harms elders may suffer at the hands of those entrusted to their care. Click on each topic for more information.

Pressure Sores

Pressure sores (also called bed sores or ulcers) are caused when patients are not turned regularly or are left in poor hygiene. They can result from too much pressure for too long a period of time on areas of the body, such as heels, elbows, shoulder blades, and the tailbone. Primary factors that contribute to pressure sores are moisture from bed sheets or unchanged diapers, malnutrition and dehydration, and immobility.

A clear indication of neglect, pressure sores can be fatal if they become infected and are not treated promptly.


Wandering occurs when a cognitively-impaired resident wanders throughout the care facility, potentially becoming a danger to themselves or others.

The resident can become disoriented and end up in an unfamiliar place without remembering their name or address. They could also be prone to significant injuries from falls or accidents including fractures, broken bones, and concussions. They could also potentially run the risk of missing a dose of a critical medication.

Nursing homes should have precautionary and preventative measures in place to prevent wandering.

Repeated Falls

While an accidental fall can likely occur in nursing homes, repeated falls can be an indication of neglect or abuse. Serious injury can occur when bed railings have not been secured properly, there is improper or no staff supervision, or staff members repeatedly drop a resident.

Approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die every year from injuries related to falls, such as traumatic brain injury and broken bones, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Survivors are often left with permanent disabilities that further reduce their quality of life.

Medication Errors

An estimated 800,000 preventable medication-related injuries occur every year in long-term care facilities, according to a report on the National Institutes of Health website.

A 2007 study of 25 nursing homes across North Carolina found 92% were found to have caused medical errors.

Medication errors occur for many reasons. The study suggests that errors most commonly occurred during medication administration and were attributed to basic human error. From ordering, dispensing, improper monitoring of drug interactions and general health conditions, to over- or under-dosing, and miscommunication among nursing home staff, doctors, pharmacy, hospital staff, and others.

Medication errors can often be the result of overworked, understaffed, and inadequately trained medical staff, and errors can result in severe health consequences including death.

Other Signs of Elder Abuse

Physical Abuse

The CDC is very clear in its definition of physical abuse of the elderly. It is defined as the intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death. Physical abuse may include, but is not limited to, violent acts such as striking (with or without an object or weapon), hitting, beating, scratching, biting, choking, suffocation, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, stomping, pinching, and burning.

Physical abuse can also be seen in force-feeding, overmedication, excessive use of chemical or physical restraints, prolonged or continual deprivation of food and fluids.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when someone influences a resident for their own advantages. Emotional abuse can include verbal threats, sarcastic remarks, insults, and isolation. Signs to look for include withdrawal, mood swings, low self-esteem, involuntary seclusion, unexplained confusion, anxiety and depression, or uncommon behaviors like sucking, rocking, or even biting.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a resident is forced or tricked into unwanted sexual contact with another resident, a staff member, visitor, stranger, or a family member. This may happen if a resident is too weak or ill to give consent.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse occurs when the person responsible for monitoring an elder’s spending habits exploits their position through the misappropriation of funds, property, or other assets. Signs may include late bill payments, using funds or property for their own benefit, cashing checks without consent, forcing signatures, taking advantage of their power of attorney, or manipulating a resident into signing a will or other legal documents.


Neglect comes in a wide variety of forms. Some of the more widespread include:

  • Failing to help the resident with personal hygiene and failing to acknowledge unsanitary conditions
  • Not providing adequate and appropriate food and fluids or a safe place to live
  • Failure to provide appropriate medical attention or to address health and safety issues
  • Over-medicating a resident

North Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

If your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or neglect at the hands of those who are entrusted to provide care and comfort, contact us immediately or call 1-866-900-7078. You may be eligible for compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of care and family duties
  • Loss of the victim’s earnings
  • Wrongful death
  • Funeral expenses for the victim