Nursing Home Abuse in New Mexico


Kimberly Dawn Neumann

New Mexico is a popular retirement destination thanks to its temperate climate and abundant sunshine. In fact, according to recent census bureau statistics, 19.1% of New Mexico’s residents are 65 or older. Unfortunately, the state is also experiencing an eldercare crisis, increasing the risk of nursing home abuse in New Mexico.

Only 2 of 67 New Mexico nursing homes met minimum staffing requirements in 2023. And 34 of those facilities have Medicare ratings of two stars or less (out of five stars).

ProPublica also ranks New Mexico as the fourth worst state in the country for adequate nursing home conditions. In the last three years, 42% of New Mexico nursing home facilities showed at least one serious deficiency during inspections.

These statistics aren’t meant to scare anyone away from nursing home care if it’s necessary. However, they heighten the importance of finding a quality nursing home, and in New Mexico that requires vigilance.

If you think you or a loved one are already in an unhealthy or unsafe nursing home environment, keep reading. This guide will teach you how to spot the signs of nursing home abuse in New Mexico. And we’re standing by to assist in getting you the legal help you need.

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New Mexico Nursing Home Resident Rights

It is very important that nursing home residents realize they have protected federal and state rights.

Before moving into a nursing home in New Mexico, all residents must receive a written description of these rights. This is per New Mexico state law (N.M. Code R. §, and the federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987.

What do these rights entail? In New Mexico, some of the comprehensive rights afforded to nursing home residents include:

  • The right to courteous, respectful, dignified, and compassionate treatment.
  • Freedom from discrimination of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, disability, or nationality.
  • Proper maintenance to promote safe and sanitary living conditions.
  • The right to privacy, including during personal hygiene and medical examinations or treatments.
  • Freedom to leave and return to the facility without restriction, and to receive visitors.
  • The right to communicate privately and freely with any person, including during telephone conversations and correspondence.
  • Agency in one’s own medical plan and decisions.
  • The right to be free from the use of any and all physical and chemical restraints.
  • Management and control of one’s personal finances.
  • The right to have an environment that fosters social interaction and avoids isolation.
  • The freedom to voice grievances without fear of retribution. 
  • The right to live in an environment that is free from abuse.

There are more rules than the dozen on the list above, but this gives a solid overview. There may also be rules for each specific facility so be sure to acquaint yourself with those as well.

What is Nursing Home Abuse in New Mexico?

Nursing home abuse in New Mexico is defined as the intentional infliction of harm done to another person, whether it is physical injury or mental anguish. Occasionally several types of abuse may occur simultaneously so it’s wise to speak with an attorney to determine where your claim fits.

The most important thing, however, is to be familiar with the permutations such that you recognize signs before things escalate.

Physical and Emotional Abuse

Nursing home physical abuse occurs when a caretaker or another resident intentionally causes bodily injury to an elderly adult. This type of abuse may become obvious as signs like inexplicable bruises, bleeding, broken bones, burns, and swelling appear.

Examples of the actions that may comprise physical abuse include:

  • Punching and kicking
  • Painful shoving
  • Slapping
  • Excessive use of restraints
  • Intentional refusal of resources

Emotional or psychological abuse, on the other hand, may be more challenging to identify. That’s because it’s usually more covert and doesn’t leave visible evidentiary marks. Additionally, many elders frequently stay quiet about this type of abuse for fear of retaliation.

Psychological and emotional abuse may look like:

  • Humiliation
  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Name-calling or insults
  • Isolation from other residents
  • Blame for minor offenses

Sexual Abuse

Unwanted, non-consensual touching of a vulnerable adult is the definition of sexual abuse.

While it may seem unthinkable that this would happen in a nursing home, the elderly are still at risk. This is especially true for women and patients with dementia.

The perpetrators may be nursing home staff, but this is also sometimes an issue with other residents. In either case, a nursing home resident shouldn’t have to put up with unsolicited or undesired sexual interactions.

In New Mexico, the definition of sexual abuse includes:

  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Coercion to perform sexual acts
  • Inappropriate advances
  • Forced nudity
  • Forced observation of sexual acts


Otherwise known as financial abuse, exploitation is a particularly cruel way to take advantage of nursing home residents.

Unfortunately, the elderly are especially vulnerable to financial abuse owing to their steady retirement income and accumulated lifetime savings. These consistent forms of financial support make them prime targets for fiscal gouging.

Losses often go unreported by seniors because they’re embarrassed or sometimes, they’re simply unaware of the siphoning of their funds. This is especially true if they trust their caregivers and are therefore unsuspecting of any wrongdoing.

As such, the amount of money seniors lose annually to financial abuse is potentially billions of dollars per year.

Prime examples of financial exploitation may include:

  • Unauthorized use of a nursing home resident’s credit, debit, or bank card
  • Changing the recipients of a will or insurance policy
  • Taking money or jewelry from a resident’s room


Closely related, but not quite the same as other types of abuse is nursing home neglect.

The reason this warrants its own category is that while abuse denotes intentional harm, neglect indicates inadequate care or apathy.

But whether it’s “on purpose” or not, nursing home neglect is a very serious issue that’s sadly becoming more common. Especially since many New Mexico nursing home facilities are struggling to attract enough staff members.

Negligence on the part of the staff or a facility in general may be occurring if you notice them:

  • Failing to provide shelter, food, or clothing
  • Not performing required wound or medical care
  • Leaving residents in bed too long such that bed sores develop
  • Not providing wheelchairs or walkers for those with mobility issues
  • Refusing to change residents after episodes of incontinence
  • Turning off the call light or ignoring help requests from residents

Even if a nursing home is facing staff shortages, every nursing home resident has the right to adequate basic care. There is no excuse for causing the elderly to suffer, and neglect is a serious offense.

Common Ways to Spot Nursing Home Abuse

It’s not uncommon for caregivers or visitors to attempt explaining away signs of abuse as the normal frailty of aging. Accordingly, it’s important to be on the lookout for clues that something is “off” before things get even worse.

While the symptoms depend on abuse type, here are some of the clues the Department of Justice suggests you should look for:

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts
  • Bleeding, cuts, lacerations
  • Sprains, dislocations, broken bones
  • Unusual changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Emotional upset or agitation
  • Personality changes, such as excessive apologizing
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds or possessions
  • Untreated bedsores
  • Torn or dirty clothing or undergarments
  • Unsanitary or unclean living conditions

Try to keep lines of communication open if you have a loved one in a nursing home. This includes calling and checking up regularly as well.

Many seniors hesitate to share their thoughts because they don’t want to cause problems, or assume this treatment is “normal.” Make sure they know you’re someone they can be honest with if they have concerns. And don’t hesitate to report any suspicions of abuse you observe.

How to Report Nursing Homes for Abuse in New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) requires anyone suspecting nursing home abuse in New Mexico to report their suspicions.

This “must report” mandate allows the NMDOH to investigate claims of abuse in a timely manner, usually within five days.

If the investigation shows abuse, the department will require the nursing home to submit detailed plans for proposed corrective actions. This creates an official “abuse record”, making it easier for the NMDOH to monitor the nursing home for future infractions.

The most immediate way to report nursing home abuse in New Mexico is by calling the ​​Adult Protective Services Intake Hotline at 866-654-3219 (toll free).

To file a complaint about a facility in general, call the Health Facility Complaints Hotline at 800-752-8649.

New Mexico Ombudsman

In addition to NMDOH services, another helpful resource for anyone suspecting nursing home abuse in New Mexico is their state ombudsman.

The ombudsman program helps advocate for older adults in long-term care (LTC) or nursing home accommodations. While the ombudsman office doesn’t have the power to enforce resolutions, they can push management to change their conditions.

The ombudsman provides many resources to assist you and can also independently investigate complaints. To connect with the New Mexico ombudsman serving your area call 866-451-2901.

When seeking help with nursing home abuse situations, it’s wise to get as many people in your corner as possible. That includes an ombudsman volunteer, and if necessary a lawyer.

Nursing Home Abuse Damages in New Mexico

Nursing homes in New Mexico have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment and acceptable basic level of care. Facilities, or their staff, who fail to do so can be held liable for damages due to their abuse or neglect.

In particularly egregious cases, filing a legal claim may be the most appropriate course of action.

You will definitely want to speak to a skilled nursing home abuse attorney before pursuing a case in this manner. They can help determine the types of abuse sustained by the victim, and the applicable damages you should seek.

In general, there are two types of damages available in nursing home abuse cases: compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are monetary payments for “actual” damages resulting from the incident. The amount of an award will depend on the proven harm, loss, or injury to the victim.

These may be in the form of economic damages, like medical bills or money lost via financial exploitation. Or they may be non-economic damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not meant to compensate, but to punish the guilty party for excessively negligent actions.

Seeking these types of damages usually only happens when the perpetrator was acting with provable intentional malice. The purpose of a punitive damages award is to serve as a deterrent from repeat offenses, or to dissuade others.

New Mexico Statute of Limitations for Nursing Home Cases

The statute of limitations for filing a claim surrounding nursing home abuse in New Mexico is three years. That’s the same as it is for other personal injury claims in the state.

The filing deadline is also three years in wrongful death cases. However, the clock starts from the date of the victim’s passing instead of the date of the incident.

In all nursing home abuse cases, however, it’s always the wisest move to file as soon as possible. Not only do missed deadlines disqualify a case, but a successful verdict is more likely when details are fresh.

Find a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney With LegalASAP

Nursing homes in New Mexico have been hit with $4.42 million in recent fines for deficiencies in proper care. What’s more, the state was short 7,000 nurses in July 2023. Staffing shortages are a very real issue in rural areas as well as nursing homes in cities like Albuquerque.

At the same time, the senior population in New Mexico is growing faster than the national average. The sad reality is that cases of nursing home abuse in New Mexico may become even more prevalent.

If you find yourself in a situation where nursing home abuse seems likely, consider consulting an attorney to help. LegalASAP’s network of 500+ law firms across the United States can connect you with a New Mexico nursing home lawyer. Because staff shortages or not, no one should be suffering where they live.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit:, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann