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Nursing home neglect occurs when residents of nursing facilities suffer from improper care, resulting in physical harm, illness, and even death. Nursing home neglect may not be as violent as outright abuse, but it can be just as dangerous. Learn about the causes, warning signs, and legal rights you may have to protect your loved one from nursing home negligence.

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What Is Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing home neglect is a form of abuse committed against residents in nursing homes, assisted living, and other long-term care facilities. Nursing home negligence involves poor care or breaches of duty that cause residents to suffer.

A man using a wheelchair looks worried as he sits outside a nursing home.

Examples of neglect in nursing homes include:

  • Failing to call a doctor or nurse for treatment when needed
  • Ignoring a resident’s injuries or illnesses (bedsores, infections, etc.)
  • Leaving a resident with mobility issues in their room for extended periods
  • Neglecting to bathe or change a resident’s clothes or bedding regularly
  • Providing insufficient food or water leading to nutritional deficiencies

Although nursing home negligence may not seem as aggressive as other forms of nursing home abuse, it can be just as harmful to the physical and mental health of vulnerable residents.

Thankfully, victims of nursing home neglect can take legal action. The Nursing Home Abuse Center partners with experienced nursing home neglect lawyers across the country who can help families in all 50 states.

Together, our legal partners have recovered over $273 million for families impacted by nursing home abuse and neglect.

Don’t wait to find out if we can help your family. You may be able to pursue financial assistance and hold facilities accountable for their negligence.

Get a free case review right now.

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Get a free legal case review if you or a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect.

Get a Free Case Reviewor call (855) 264-6310

Types of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect can take various forms, posing significant risks to residents’ health and well-being.

“Neglect is the failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs. These needs include food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and essential medical care.”

—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Learn more about the types of nursing home neglect below.

Abandonment

This happens when a caregiver deserts someone in their care, neglecting their well-being. Abandonment can threaten a resident’s safety and put them at risk of physical harm.

During the pandemic, The New York Times reported that nursing homes were removing residents to make room for COVID-19 patients, which would increase their profits. 

In one case, a Los Angeles nursing home kicked out an 88-year-old man with dementia and sent him to a homeless shelter without telling his family members.

Medical Neglect

Medical neglect, or nursing home medical malpractice, is when providers fail to treat or prevent health problems properly. This can result in bedsores, infections, mobility issues, and other health problems.

Without treatment, certain health issues can cause serious complications for nursing home residents, who are often already frail.

For example, untreated infections could worsen over time and lead to a potentially deadly condition called sepsis.

Medical neglect also includes medication errors. A study by the American Journal of Managed Care found that 75% of all patients given medications by facility staff were given at least one inappropriate medication.

Additionally, nursing homes may even misuse medications on purpose to sedate residents, making them easier to care for, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“Evidence has mounted over decades that some facilities wrongly diagnose residents with schizophrenia or administer antipsychotic drugs to sedate them, despite dangerous side effects that could include death, according to [CMS].”

—Associated Press

Neglect of Basic Needs

This type of nursing home negligence occurs when facilities fail to provide residents with enough food and water or a clean, safe environment.

As a result, residents may suffer from malnutrition or dehydration. They may also be at a higher risk of many other issues — like falling or theft — if their environment is unsafe.

Neglect of Personal Hygiene

This form of nursing home negligence occurs when a facility fails to help a resident stay clean.

Neglecting personal hygiene can include:

  • Allowing residents to go without baths
  • Failing to wash laundry
  • Not changing residents who wear diapers
  • Providing inadequate dental care

Residents who are neglected may appear dirty and wear soiled clothes.

Self-Neglect

This occurs when older adults lose the ability to care for themselves but do not seek assistance or refuse help from others.

Self-neglect can still happen in a nursing home. Remember, staff members are supposed to prevent residents from neglecting themselves.

If your loved one shows signs of self-neglect in a care facility, the staff might not be doing their job, and nursing home negligence may be at play.

Social or Emotional Neglect

This may involve ignoring a nursing home resident, leaving them alone, or not letting them interact with friends, family, or other residents.

Residents with physical or mental disabilities or memory-related conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, could have a higher risk of social neglect, as they may rely on caregivers to help them move around the facility and interact with others.

Neglect may stem from or lead to many issues, like:

7 Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

If you are concerned about the quality of care your loved one is receiving, look for red flags that may indicate nursing home negligence.

Did You Know

An investigative report by the Washington Post in May 2024 revealed that 37.5% of communities on A Place for Mom’s “Best of Senior Living” lists had been cited for neglect and substandard care.

This report suggests that even well-regarded sources can miss or gloss over serious problems. Therefore, knowing what to look for to keep your loved one safe is crucial.

Learn about the top 7 warning signs of nursing home neglect below.

1. Loss or Lack of Mobility

Quality nursing homes have programs and policies in place to keep residents physically active and mobile.

Neglectful nursing homes may leave residents sitting in their beds or wheelchairs for long periods, causing them to develop mobility issues.

When residents sit in wheelchairs or lay in their beds without being repositioned, pressure ulcers can progress into stage 4 bedsores.

2. Poor Personal Hygiene

Many nursing home residents need help with personal health care, such as brushing their teeth and bathing.

Nursing homes without enough staff members often fail to keep residents clean and healthy.

3. Psychological Issues

Nursing home negligence may lead to emotional issues for residents, such as fear of caregivers, a reluctance to open up to staff, or anger and resentment.

Constant neglect can cause anxiety or depression. Some residents may distance themselves from friends and family members.

4. Dehydration

Many residents who experience nursing home negligence are not getting enough food or water.

Loved ones should look for signs of dehydration and malnutrition, like tiredness or irritability, complaints of being cold, hair loss, and papery skin.

5. Sudden Weight Loss

Nursing homes that neglect proper care may fail to provide residents with adequate nutrition, leading to significant weight loss. This can indicate that residents are not receiving enough food or the right kind of food to meet their dietary needs.

6. Unexplained Injuries or Bruises

Nursing homes with staffing issues are less likely to prevent residents from accidentally — or intentionally — harming themselves or others.

Residents may suffer serious injuries like broken bones, bedrail injuries, and concussions. Additionally, fall-related injuries can occur due to lack of supervision.

Staff members may not report nursing home injuries in a timely manner or even know how a resident was injured.

7. Unsanitary Living Conditions

A nursing home should provide clean clothing, bedding, and living areas. Facilities should also be free from pests and mold. If a nursing home is often dirty, it could be a red flag that a resident you love is at a higher risk of neglect.

If your loved one is showing any of these signs of nursing home negligence, connect with our compassionate patient advocates now for a free case review.

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Get a free legal case review if you or a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect.

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Causes of Nursing Home Neglect

There are many causes of elder neglect in nursing homes, but several chronic issues are often at the root of the problem.

Below are several of the most common causes of nursing home negligence.

Staffing Issues

Staffing issues are a top cause of nursing home neglect. Without enough well-trained and consistent staff, residents are at a higher risk of receiving poor care.

These are some of the staffing issues that plague many facilities:

  • High turnover rates: Frequent changes in staff can disrupt the continuity of care and result in inexperienced or temporary workers who may not provide the best care.
  • Inadequate training: Staff members who are not properly trained may not know how to care for residents, leading to mistakes and neglect.
  • Negligent hiring: Hiring unqualified or unsuitable staff can directly lead to neglectful care.
  • Understaffing: When there are not enough staff members to properly care for residents, neglect can occur. This leads to overworked employees and inadequate attention to residents’ needs.

Contact the Nursing Home Abuse Center right now to see if we can help your family. Call us at (855) 264-6310 or Click to Chat right now.

Poor Management

Poor management can result in a lack of supervision and accountability among staff, allowing neglectful practices to go unchecked. Effective oversight ensures standards of care are maintained, and issues are promptly addressed.

Lack of Resources or Facilities

Inadequate facilities and a shortage of necessary resources can prevent staff from providing proper care, leading to neglect. Residents may not receive timely medical attention or daily necessities.

Inadequate Policies and Procedures

Nursing homes without clear, enforced policies and procedures may struggle to maintain high standards of care, resulting in neglect. Proper policies ensure consistent and comprehensive care for all residents.

Financial Constraints or Mismanagement

Limited financial resources or poor financial management can lead to cost-cutting measures that compromise the quality of care, such as understaffing and lack of essential supplies. Financial instability can also prevent necessary facility upgrades and maintenance.

What to Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Neglect

If you suspect nursing home neglect, the most important thing to do is take immediate action to address the issue.

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that nursing home neglect is very common. Alarmingly, it often goes unreported.

However, there are steps you can take if you suspect your loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence.

How to Report Nursing Home Neglect

If a loved one has suffered from poor care, make sure to report nursing home negligence to the authorities as soon as possible. Doing so can prevent further harm.

Neglect may mean other forms of abuse are also taking place. This could include physical abuse or sometimes even sexual assault.

Left untreated, health problems stemming from neglect can lead to depression, permanent disability, or death.

Learn about reporting nursing home neglect below.

Local Law Enforcement (Dial 911 in an emergency)

Police or paramedics can remove residents from a neglectful nursing home and deliver them to a safe location. They can also conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether the nursing home has broken any laws.

Adult Protective Services (APS)

The local APS office will generally be in charge of investigating non-urgent complaints of nursing home neglect. An agent can conduct a welfare check on a resident and recommend the next steps.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

A nursing home ombudsman serves as an advocate for adults in long-term care facilities. They can address concerns an elder or their loved ones may have, investigate a nursing home for signs of neglect, and help victims take legal action if needed.

Social Workers

When investigating a complaint, APS may call on social workers they are partnered with to address a victim’s health and safety concerns.

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

If you think your loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence, an experienced nursing home abuse attorney may be able to help.

An attorney can pursue financial aid to help you and your family cover expenses stemming from the neglect. Money from a lawsuit can also mean moving your loved one to a safer facility where they get the care they deserve.

Preventing Nursing Home Negligence

Taking a proactive approach is the best way to protect your family members from nursing home negligence.

Here are some measures you can take to keep your loved one safe.

Believing Loved Ones

Always take complaints of neglect from older adults seriously and investigate them. Dismissing their concerns may discourage them from speaking up again.

Carefully Reviewing Nursing Home Facilities

Before choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility, make sure it is properly staffed and well-maintained.

CMS has a Nursing Home Care Compare tool that you can use to research facilities. You can also check U.S. News & World Report and read reviews online.

If possible, speak to other residents or their families and see how they like living at the facility.

Regularly Contacting Loved Ones

Frequently visiting loved ones in nursing homes may make seeing signs of poor care easier. If frequent visits are impossible, keeping in touch through phone calls or other methods is helpful.

Watching for Signs of Neglect or Abuse

Simply being aware of the warning signs of nursing home neglect and abuse is key to detecting and addressing problems early on.

Remember, it’s important to act quickly, as each state has time limits for taking legal action called statutes of limitations. If you wait too long, these deadlines can prevent you from seeking justice and financial compensation.

Connect with us right now to see if you can file a nursing home negligence claim for your loved one.

If you or a loved one experienced abuse and neglect in nursing homes, consider taking legal action. Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can help you pursue justice and potentially deter future neglect. A successful lawsuit also provides financial compensation for your loved one’s injuries.

No one should have to endure poor treatment during their most vulnerable years, especially when relying on and paying for care. If your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, we can help.

Call us right now at (855) 264-6310 or get a free case review to see if you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation.

Nursing Home Neglect FAQs

What is the definition of neglect in nursing facilities?

Neglect in nursing facilities is the failure to provide necessary care, assistance, or supervision to residents, resulting in harm or risk of harm to their health, safety, or well-being.

If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home neglect or abuse, the Nursing Home Abuse Center may be able to help you take legal action.

Call us right now at (855) 264-6310.

What is the difference between negligence and neglect?

Negligence is when someone fails to act with the care that a reasonable person would in a similar situation, causing harm.

Neglect is the failure to provide necessary care or assistance to someone, resulting in harm or the risk of harm.

Neglect is a type of negligence, especially in caregiving contexts.

How common is nursing home neglect?

Nursing home neglect is all too common. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 15.3% of elder abuse complaints are for neglect. And in a 2020 survey from the World Health Organization, 12% of nursing home employees admitted to neglecting residents.

Sadly, caregiver neglect is one of the most underreported forms of elder abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. For every one case that is reported, 57 go unreported.

Who is legally responsible for neglect in nursing homes?

Who is liable for nursing home negligence varies by state and each case. Nursing home staff members, on-site doctors or nurses, and even facilities have been held accountable.

Law enforcement, elder advocacy groups, and nursing home abuse law firms can help you figure out who is legally responsible for neglecting your loved one. From there, you can determine what actions to take.

Call us at (855) 264-6310 if you have questions about your legal rights or get a free case review right now.

What constitutes neglect in a nursing home?

Nursing home neglect can come in many forms. If your loved one has pressure sores (pressure ulcers), suffers from unexplained weight loss, often wears dirty clothes, or seems to be constantly hungry or thirsty, they may be suffering from nursing home neglect.

Those are just a few possible signs that nursing home neglect is occurring. If you believe your loved one is not receiving the care they need, don’t wait: Report it to authorities.

How can I report nursing home neglect?

You have several options to report a nursing home for neglect. Always dial 911 in an emergency. You can also report nursing home neglect to your local ombudsman, social workers, or a nursing home negligence lawyer.

Are there time limits to report nursing home neglect?

Yes. If you wait too long to report a possible case of nursing home neglect, authorities may not be able to help you.

Additionally, there are time limits to take legal action. State laws called statutes of limitations place strict deadlines on how long you have to file a lawsuit.

To avoid these types of issues, make sure to take action as soon as possible.

Get a free case review right now to start the process.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team
Julie Rivers HeadshotReviewed by:Julie Rivers, MBA

Eldercare Advocate & Expert

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Julie Rivers is an eldercare advocate with over 15 years of dedicated service to victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Her journey in this field became deeply personal when she assumed the role of an unpaid caregiver during her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

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.

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  7. Silver-Greenberg, J., & Harris, A. (2020, June 21). ‘They just dumped him like trash’: Nursing homes evict vulnerable residents. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/business/nursing-homes-evictions-discharges-coronavirus.html
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, July 29). Elder abuse. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse
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