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Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing Home Negligence

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Nursing home neglect or negligence — the improper care of residents — is shockingly common. A lack of care in nursing homes can have serious consequences, including death. 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 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 nursing home neglect include:

  • Leaving a resident with mobility issues in their room for hours at a time
  • Not calling a doctor or nurse when needed
  • Not changing a resident’s clothes or bedding regularly
  • Not cleaning a resident daily
  • Not giving residents enough food or water
  • Not treating a resident’s injuries or illnesses (bedsores, infections, etc.)

Though nursing home negligence is not as aggressive as other forms of nursing home abuse, it can be just as harmful to older adults’ physical and mental health.

Thankfully, victims of nursing home neglect can take legal action.

Contact our team right now for a free consultation to learn how you can pursue financial aid and hold facilities accountable.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect can take many forms, including:


This occurs when someone who has custody of another person deserts them without regard for their well-being.

In 2020, The New York Times noted 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.

Abandonment can threaten a resident’s safety and put them at risk of physical harm.

Medical Neglect

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

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

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

“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 happens when a facility fails to help a resident with dental care, laundry, and bathing. Residents suffering from the neglect of personal hygiene may appear dirty and wear soiled clothes.


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:

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 mean nursing home negligence is occurring.

Here are the top 6 warning signs of nursing home neglect:

Loss or Lack of Mobility

Good nursing homes have programs and policies 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 quickly progress into stage 4 bedsores.

Poor Resident 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.

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.

Signs of Inadequate Nutrition

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

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

Unexplained Injuries

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.

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

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.

Causes of Nursing Home Neglect

There are many causes of nursing home neglect, but several chronic issues are often the root causes.

Here are the most common causes of nursing home negligence:


When a nursing facility does not have enough staff, each resident receives less attention, increasing the risk of neglect.

Numerous federal reports have consistently found that most U.S. assisted living facilities are understaffed. This problem became even worse after COVID-19, which hit nursing homes especially hard.

Negligent Hiring

This involves hiring caretakers who are at high risk of neglecting older adults.

Nursing homes should follow a thorough screening process to check an applicant’s criminal background and certifications. If this does not happen, facilities may end up hiring people with a track record of abusing or neglecting vulnerable populations.

Inadequate Training

Nursing home staff members who are not properly trained for their roles can slip into patterns of neglect.

Untrained caretakers are more likely to make mistakes with medications, mistreat residents, and create other problems that cause harm.

What to Do About Nursing Home Neglect

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 nursing home negligence, make sure to report it 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 sexual assault.

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

If your loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect, you can contact:

  • Local Law Enforcement (Dial 911 in an emergency) Police or paramedics can remove a resident from a neglectful nursing home and deliver them to a safe location. Police can also conduct a criminal investigation to determine if the nursing home has broken any laws.
  • Adult Protective Services (APS)A state’s 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 OmbudsmanA 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 LawyersIf you think your loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence, an experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help. An attorney can pursue financial aid to help you and your family cover expenses stemming from the neglect.

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:

  • Carefully Reviewing Nursing Home FacilitiesBefore choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility, make sure it is properly staffed and well-maintained.

CMS has the 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 addressing problems early on.
  • Believing Loved Ones Never dismiss an older adult who complains of neglect — look into it. Not taking a resident’s complaints seriously may discourage them from speaking up in the future.

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

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

If a loved one has been neglected in a nursing home, 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 suffer from poor treatment during their most vulnerable years. If your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, we can help.

Get a free case review today to see if you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation.

FAQs About Nursing Home Neglect

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 can vary by state and by 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.

What constitutes neglect in a nursing home?

Nursing home neglect can come in many forms. If your loved one is suffering from issues like pressure sores (pressure ulcers), 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 plenty of options to report a nursing home for neglect.

Always dial 911 if you or a loved one is having a medical 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. The statute of limitations in each state can prevent victims from taking legal action if too much time has passed.

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

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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  3. Silver-Greenberg, J., & Harris, A. (2020, June 21). ‘They just dumped him like trash’: Nursing homes evict vulnerable residents. Retrieved June 16, 2023, from
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, July 29). Elder abuse. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved June 16, 2023, from
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019, April 26). Trends in Deficiencies at Nursing Homes Show That Improvements Are Needed To Ensure the Health and Safety of Residents. Retrieved June 16, 2023, from