Signs or Symptoms of Abuse or Neglect

Signs or Symptoms of Abuse or Neglect

There are many potential signs or symptoms of abuse or neglect. Often consideration must be given to the patient’s underlying medical condition to determine if the adverse outcome was truly avoidable with proper care. That may require an evaluation by an attorney or medical expert. Typical signs of neglect and abuse can include the following:

Pressure Sores, Decubitus Ulcers or Skin Breakdown

Pressure wounds can be a sign of neglect in long term care facilities. As patients age, they become at increased risk for skin breakdown. It is estimated that some 2.5 million patients develop pressure wounds (a/k/a bed sores) every year, in both hospitals and rehab facilities, costing the US taxpayers an estimated 9 to 11 billion dollars a year.


Dehydration is a major health issue for the elderly which can double the risk of disability, increase the risk of death and extend hospital stays. The most common type of dehydration in the elderly is simple water loss dehydration, (WLD) caused by inadequate fluid intake. Generally, dehydration is completely preventable with consistent hydration.

Sudden Change in Weight or Unexplained Weight Loss

Unanticipated weight loss can be a serious risk to an elder’s health and wellbeing. Unintentional weight loss is a serious and correctable problem in our long-term care system.

Infection and Infection Control

Nursing home and hospital patients are at higher risk for infections. These facilities are required to implement infection control practices.

Medication Errors/Misadministration/Overmedication

Medication errors are defined as the inappropriate use of medications. Errors can occur at any point in the process: ordering, transcribing, dispensing, administering, or monitoring medications.

Wrongful Death

When a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act of another, it may be possible for certain surviving relatives to sue the wrongdoer and recover damages for the loss they sustained. To pursue a wrongful death case against a health care provider your attorney will need to have the medical records reviewed by a health care provider who can establish legal causation, or proximate cause.

Gastrointestinal Injuries and Blockage

Nursing home patients often become constipated. The failure to address that problem timely can sometimes cause severe blockage, which can cause GI injuries and even death. Dehydration can also put elders at increased risk for GI problems and constipation.

Significant Blood Sugar Fluctuations

Some patients in nursing homes are diabetics on sliding scale insulin administration. This means that their blood levels must be monitored regularly, and the insulin amounts are adjusted to control the patient’s blood sugar. If this is not done properly or timely, spikes in the patient’s blood sugar levels can cause brain damage or death.


Nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other mentally debilitating illnesses, may attempt to elope from the facility during their stay. In the nursing home setting, elopement, otherwise known as wandering, refers to the patient leaving a facility without notice or permission.

Falls Causing Injuries

Falls causing injuries can be an indicator of negligence, but the circumstances of the fall and underlying condition of the patient are important facts to consider. If a patient who is walking independently with no sign of instability falls, the facility may not be liable as they had no notice he was a fall risk.

Poor Hygiene, Smell of Urine or Feces

Soiled clothing and bedding and/or unkempt personal appearance are signs that staff may be neglecting the patient’s bathing and/or grooming needs. As elders age and become demented, they are at increased risk for incontinence.

Unexplained Bruising or Injuries

Bruising or unexplained injuries can be a sign of neglect or abuse. Sometimes such injuries can be a sign of rough handling. You should discuss such injuries with the patient and staff. Inquire whether the staff documented how the injury occurred.