Nursing Home Abuse in Iowa – Warning Signs and How to File a Claim


Laura Schaefer

The Hawkeye state of Iowa, famously home to vast corn fields and small towns, is also a rapidly aging state. Iowa ranks 16th in population age 50 or older, also ranking in the top-5 for demographics aged 75 or older. A rising population of vulnerable adults in a rural state allows nursing home abuse in Iowa to grow.

Sadly, since 2020, Iowa has also experienced a significant increase in nursing home closures.

In 2022, 17 nursing homes closed down and there were 11 closures in 2023. If your loved one suffered abuse or neglect in Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, or any other Iowa nursing home, speak with a nursing home neglect attorney.

Your loved one deserves a settlement payment for their suffering due to abuse or neglect.

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Main Forms of Nursing Home Abuse in Iowa

Your loved one may feel embarrassed or unsure about how to speak out against nursing home abuse. They may not want to reveal their situation because they fear telling you will make their situation worse.

Reassure them that retaliation done against your loved one for defending their resident rights is illegal. If nursing home employees retaliate against your loved one for filing an abuse complaint, call an attorney immediately. They may be abusing their power and are liable for your loved one’s losses.

Nursing home abuse in Iowa comes in several forms. Thus, we need to stay vigilant to keep our loved ones safe. Abusive behavior may be a combination of the forms below:

  • Physical abuse: This is any type of physical injury or harm including the presence of bed sores, injury from a restraint, or a bruise from rough handling.
  • Emotional abuse: This includes behavior or talk on the part of care providers deliberately intended to upset or confuse nursing home residents. Verbal harassment, isolation, and psychological manipulation are forms of emotional abuse that can occur in nursing homes in Massachusetts.
  • Financial abuse: Financial abuse is improper access to, manipulation, or control of a nursing home residents’ valuables, accounts, insurance policies, or will.
  • Sexual abuse: Any unwanted touching or sexual contact. Residents with mental disorders are particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse.
  • Neglect: Withholding basic care and human interaction to residents is a form of nursing home neglect. It is common due to ongoing staffing issues in the nursing home industry.

Abuse allegations can be complicated to prove due to the presence of cognitive disorders. It’s often difficult for family members to figure out what happened, which also makes these patients particularly vulnerable to abuse.

Families must be especially vigilant when their loved one suffers from a cognitive disorder. Contacting a nursing home abuse attorney can create a safe environment for your loved one to reveal their situation. Reassure them that their safety is guaranteed, and they can pursue legal action against those that violated their rights.

Differences Between Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Nursing home neglect in Iowa differs from abuse because neglect is caused by careless or apathetic behavior (or lack of adequate staffing at a facility), whereas abuse stems from deliberate harm.

A mixture of negligence in hiring staff, failure to investigate complaints, failure to adequately train existing staff, and a high turnover rate in the facility can lead to nursing home neglect.

What Causes Iowa Nursing Home Abuse?

According to recent reporting by Axios, Iowa is part of a national nursing home crisis that only intensified during the pandemic. Critical staffing shortages persist in 2024 in Iowa and throughout the United States.

Recent reports of nursing home abuse in Iowa include a resident who contracted gangrene which led to amputation. Another resident froze to death under a caregiver’s watch. Both situations were entirely preventable if staff provided the care mandated by federal and state law.

Iowa has not kept up with the minimum staffing requirements proposed by President Biden to prevent nursing home abuse. Your loved one reserves the right to adequate care by trained nurses and staff.

Early Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

If you see a sudden change in your loved one’s behavior or personality, it can be a warning sign of nursing home neglect or abuse. Notice also if your loved one shows:

  • Rapidly lost weight
  • Visible bruises or abrasions on their skin
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Changing sleep or personal habits
  • Depression
  • Noticeably less eye contact
  • Fearfulness, timidity
  • More than normal isolation from family and friends
  • Repeated injuries requiring visits to emergency rooms

Make sure the facility has adequate staffing and can take care of your loved one’s medical needs. Staying vigilant about nursing home abuse and following up if anything seems “off” can help prevent further infractions against other residents.

How to Prevent Further Abuse

Most states require nursing homes to post their resident’s rights on a visible area in the facility. If you’re an older adult, you can stay safe by attending support groups for spouses and learning about domestic violence services.

Educating seniors, professionals, caregivers, and the public on abuse is critical to preventing further abuse from happening. Knowing your rights is also important. If you use the services of a paid or family caregiver, you have the right to voice your preferences and concerns.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Iowa

If you think that an older adult is in immediate, life-threatening danger, dial 911. If you suspect that an older adult is being mistreated, contact the Iowa Health and Human Services Hotline at 1-800-362-2178. They’re open all days of the week on all hours of the day.

If the abuse is occurring in a health-related facility, contact the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals Nursing Home and Home Health Complaint Hotline at 1-877-686-0027 or email [email protected].

Keep in mind that certain people are required under Iowa law to report instances of abuse whenever suspected. These individuals are called mandatory reporters, and examples of such include:

  • Social workers
  • Peace officers
  • Mental health facility employees
  • Doctors and psychologists

If you or a loved one are mandatory reporters under Iowa Code § 232.69 and suspect abuse, you must report the issue under Iowa law.

Iowa Ombudsman

The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for residents and tenants of long-term care facilities, including nursing facilities, residential care facilities, assisted living programs and elder group homes.

The ombudsman seeks to resolve complaints that impact the health, safety and welfare of residents and tenants, as well as by informing residents and tenants of their rights.

Types of Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Claim

There are three types of damages you can file for in a nursing home abuse claim:

Economic and non-economic damages are filed under compensatory damages, compensation for harm, injury, or expenses incurred by the liable defendant(s).

Economic damages are the tangible losses your family spent to remedy the abuse or neglect. These expenses may include medical care, the cost to relocate the patient to a new facility, physical therapy, mental health treatment, etc.

Non-economic damages include intangible losses like pain and suffering and emotional distress. Keep in mind that Iowa caps non-economic damages to $250,000 for personal injury or death against a healthcare provider. If that is relevant to your nursing home abuse case, talk to your attorney to properly organize your case.

Punitive damages are designed to punish willingly malicious or dangerously negligent behavior. Awarding punitive damages to your case may prevent further acts from occurring in other nursing homes.

Iowa Statute of Limitations

According to Iowa law, your deadline to file your lawsuit, or the statute of limitations, is two years. This may seem long, but delays in filing your nursing home abuse lawsuit may weaken the relevance of your evidence. Don’t wait and file your claim as soon as you can with an attorney.

How to Find a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer With LegalASAP

Nursing home abuse attorneys typically work under contingency fees, meaning you won’t have to pay them until your settlement arrives. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and secure your family a much higher settlement than if you represent yourself.

Not sure how to locate an attorney to represent your Iowa nursing home abuse case? LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with an experienced legal advocate near you.

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and