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4 Types of Nursing Home Neglect and Warning Signs to Watch For

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Nursing home abuse can take many forms, but in every case it is absolutely unacceptable. The best defense is for adult children of elder parents and other loved ones to identify warning signs and take immediate action beginning with removing the elder person from danger. We know this may pose significant challenges for you and your aging loved ones right now as many of us cannot currently visit skilled long-term care facilities.

How can you keep your senior loved ones safe right now as we find ourselves in the middle of National Elder Law Month? Start with knowing what to watch for. It is only for a limited amount of time that we cannot enter into a facility and soon we will be able to do so again. Know that elder abuse is typically associated with physical, emotional, and even sexual abuse, but one of the most pernicious, and difficult to identify, forms is neglect. 

Neglect itself is an elder abuse term that you need to understand. It is understood by experts to be the mistreatment of vulnerable seniors through inadequate attention, especially a careless disregard for their health needs. There are four main types of senior neglect:

1. Physical Neglect. Physical neglect includes the failure of nursing home staff to tend to a senior resident’s medical, hygienic, nutrition or hydration needs. This can involve a lack of attention to medications, injuries, bathing, dressing, and other important daily functions, as well as failing to provide enough physical support for a resident to maintain basic health. 

2. Emotional Neglect. Emotional neglect can be willful or passive, and it involves ignoring the emotional needs of an older person to the point of causing distress or anguish. One example might be willfully or passively isolating a nursing home resident for long periods of time whether as a punishment or lack of proper care.

3. Abandonment. Abandonment involves leaving an elder resident to fend for themselves when they should be safely in the care of nursing home staff. Abandoning an elder resident effectively denies basic needs. 

4. Financial Neglect. Nursing home residents have financial obligations that are critical to sustaining their care and well-being. When nursing home staff or caregivers ignore financial needs that fall under their purview, it amounts to financial neglect.

Identifying warning signs of nursing home neglect can be a matter of life and death. When visiting an elder loved one, ask yourself: Is the facility and your elder loved one clean? Does there appear to be sufficient staff? What is the demeanor of your elder family member’s caregiver? Do they seem attentive? Look for stark changes in your elder loved one’s behavior and personality, especially if they are disabled, as this is often a telltale sign that something may be wrong.

In the meantime, before you can personally visit again, check in daily with the facility. Ask to speak with your loved one if he or she is able to communicate. If not, ask for the care team and request regular reports and photos. Just knowing that you are there, checking in, can go quite a long way in this unprecedented time.


If you suspect an elder loved one is the victim of neglect, report your concerns to the police, Adult Protective Services, or a long-term care ombudsman. Also, do not wait to contact our team. As experienced elder care attorneys we can help you to learn more about your rights and those of your loved one.