Report Nursing Home Abuse

How to Report Abuse in Nursing Homes

Quick Answer

Nursing home residents deserve to age with dignity — but some fall victim to horrific acts of abuse and neglect. Sadly, nursing home abuse often goes unreported due to fear, embarrassment, or because a resident is unable to communicate. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse, report it immediately to keep them safe.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse is an all-too-common problem that leaves elders badly injured, financially broken, and emotionally scarred. In extreme circumstances, it can also contribute to their death.

Incidents of abuse usually stem from poorly-trained staff members who may violently lash out at residents or horribly fail to meet their needs. Aggressive residents can also harm other seniors if the nursing home staff does not properly intervene.

Fortunately, families have many options to report nursing home abuse.

Families can report nursing home abuse by contacting:

  • Local police or law enforcement
  • Long-term care ombudsmen
  • Medical experts like doctors or nurses
  • Nursing home administrators

It is always best to play it safe than let a loved one stay in a possibly abusive situation. Even if a resident is not willing to speak up due to fear, shame, or mental impairment, their family can take action to protect them.

Quick Facts About Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

  • Nursing home abuse appears to be on the rise. From 2013 to 2017, incidents that put residents in harm or immediate danger rose by nearly 11%, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
  • Nursing home abuse often goes unreported. A 2016 data analysis found that roughly 6,600 cases of possible abuse or neglect in nursing homes were not reported to proper authorities, according to the Associated Press.
  • One study from the National Research Council found that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse gets reported in the United States.
  • Every state has resources and agencies available to help victims of nursing home abuse file complaints if they have suffered abuse.

Signs and Evidence of Nursing Home Abuse

To determine whether or not a senior has suffered from elder abuse, it is important to look at the common warning signs.

Common signs of nursing home abuse include: 

  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Bedsores
  • Bruising near genitals
  • Negative changes in the resident’s behaviors or emotions
  • Strange financial transactions
  • Unexplained sicknesses or infections

If nursing home abuse is suspected, these warning signs should be documented in as much detail as possible.

Families can document signs of nursing home abuse by:


  • Observing Behavior

    Noting any changes in the resident’s behavior


  • Taking Pictures

    Taking pictures or videos of their injuries


  • Interviewing Witnesses

    Writing or recording statements from any witnesses who saw the abuse taking place or from the resident themselves

Having evidence of abuse is very important, as it encourages those who receive a nursing home abuse report to take immediate action. While all nursing home abuse reports are taken seriously, evidence makes the claim stronger.

Where to Report Nursing Home Abuse

Doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals are required by law to report nursing home abuse. That being said, families should not wait for a professional to issue a report. Even the National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends to immediately report any signs of abuse.

To report nursing home abuse, help is available through a wide assortment of channels.

Local Authorities

The most important — and fastest — way to report nursing home abuse is to call 911. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and NIA both recommend calling 911 if a senior is in life-threatening danger.

911 provides an immediate response to the problem, which is crucial for two reasons. First, it allows medical authorities to treat a victim of nursing home abuse as quickly as possible. Second, it notifies the police that a nursing home may be failing to keep its residents safe.

If a senior is not in urgent danger, it may be more appropriate to report nursing home abuse through other means.

Eldercare Locator

Through Eldercare Locator, families can access senior advocacy services in their area and protect the rights of elderly loved ones. By simply entering a ZIP code, Eldercare Locator locates the closest resource centers and government agencies related to senior safety.

Families can access Eldercare Locator by visiting its official website or by calling 1-800-677-1116.

Other than providing senior advocacy connections, Eldercare Locator also provides information about housing, insurance, senior health, and transportation services.

National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)

Established in 1988, the NCEA connects seniors to resources that can help them if abuse occurs.

While the NCEA does not investigate reports of abuse itself, it does offer advice on how to file reports and provides guidance for eight different scenarios of possible abuse and neglect.

Other than serving as a resource hub, the NCEA also conducts its own research into the problem of elder abuse and works to educate the public about the issue.

To learn more, visit the NCEA’s official website.

Doctors and Medical Experts

A doctor or another medical expert can help determine if a nursing home resident’s injuries were caused by an accident or abuse.

For example, in 2018 a nursing home resident with Alzheimer’s suffered from a fractured hand and deep cuts to the face, nose, kneecap, and arm after a three-week stay in a nursing home. Initially, nursing home staff members said the resident scratched herself with a coat hanger.

The resident went to the emergency room for treatment, and her doctor did not believe that a coat hanger caused the injuries. A nursing home staff member was later arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for assaulting the woman and another resident.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Another option to report nursing home abuse is by speaking with a Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Ombudsmen serve as advocates for nursing home residents by helping them address their complaints with the facility or its staff.

Every state, along with the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico, has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman program.

A Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

  • Informs residents about new changes in nursing home laws
  • Listens to the concerns of the patient and their family members
  • Protects residents through legal or administrative action
  • Provides information about different long-term care services

Families can find a Long-Term Care Ombudsman program in their area through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.

Confidential Reporting

A nursing home abuse report can often remain confidential. For example, complaints filed with a Long-Term Care Ombudsman remain confidential unless consent is otherwise given.

According to a 2019 report from GAO, nursing home abuse goes unreported partly because residents are afraid of what will happen if they speak out. Some fear that nursing home staff members will begin to treat them worse. Confidentiality can ease this concern while also addressing the problem of abuse.

Get Help With Reporting Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

You should never feel like you are overreacting when you see signs of abuse. It is better to report nursing home abuse than to deal with a tragic ending.

One of the best ways to ensure your loved one does not become a victim of nursing home abuse is to visit them on a regular basis. When you visit, keep an eye out for any possible signs of abuse or neglect and make sure that your loved one is happy and healthy.

To learn more about how you can report nursing home abuse, get a free case review today. Our dedicated team can help connect you with important medical and legal resources.

Author:Avatar
The Nursing Home Abuse Center Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

Last modified: December 9, 2019

View 9 Sources
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  8. United States Government Accountability Office. (2019, June). NURSING HOMES: Improved Oversight Needed to Better Protect Residents from Abuse. Retrieved November 26, 2019, from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/699721.pdf.
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