What is Nursing Home Neglect?


Jan Reburiano

When care facilities fail to provide basic care to their residents, resulting in injury or death, they are committing nursing home neglect. This type of harm is less direct than nursing home abuse, but no less dangerous.

In some cases, nursing home residents cannot speak out to tell loved ones they’re suffering from neglect. Therefore, friends and family members must watch for the warning signs you’ll read over below. If you recognize these warning signs, it’s crucial to report them to state or local authorities.

You may have legal options to hold the facility responsible after reporting the neglect to authorities. Know more about the signs of nursing home neglect, preventing further harm, and how to pursue a legal claim to cover your loved one’s damages from neglect.

Whenever you suspect neglect or abuse, talk to a lawyer immediately.

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Types of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect comes in numerous forms that are discussed in the sections below. Your case may involve multiple types of nursing home neglect, making that consultation with an attorney much more important.

Neglect of Basic Needs

This type of neglect involves caretakers withholding baseline necessities from their residents, like food, water, or adequate shelter. You may sue for food poisoning if they serve spoiled food to residents. Nursing home occupants are entitled under federal and state law to these basic needs, and failing to provide constitutes neglect.

Residents who are neglected of even basic care may suffer dehydration or malnutrition. During the COVID-19 epidemic, more than 40,000 died who were victims of separate circumstances caused by neglect.

Examples of neglecting basic needs include:

  • Failing to clean resident rooms in a timely manner
  • Not bringing food and water to residents
  • Unable to flip bed-ridden residents, creating bed sores

Poor Hygiene

Certain residents may need assistance with their hygiene to promote health throughout their stay in a nursing home. If caretakers neglect taking care of their resident’s hygiene, their actions can cause life-threatening damage, seen in the COVID-19 epidemic.

Examples of neglecting a resident’s hygiene include:

  • Irregular or inconsistent bathing of residents
  • Not cleaning and changing bed sheets on-time
  • Haphazardly letting infections spread
  • Overlooking residents’ hygiene habits like continence and proper toileting

A study was done analyzing 1223 California nursing home facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Researchers found that five-star rated nursing homes were statistically less likely to contract COVID cases compared to lesser-rated facilities. Hygiene variables like bed occupancy had a large impact on cases and deaths.

The larger the nursing home, the greater likelihood infection will spread throughout its residents. Hygiene is crucial to the health and security of a nursing home. If caretakers neglect it, they can be liable for your damages.

Medical Neglect

Nursing home medical neglect occurs when staff ignore or fail to meet the medical needs of their residents. Vulnerable adults may suffer preconditions like dementia or stroke, further requiring the assistance of nurses or other caretakers.

Examples of caretakers exhibiting medical neglect include:

  • Improper distribution of medicine or giving wrong doses
  • Inadequate care of diabetic residents
  • Malnourishing residents bound to a feeding tube

Medical neglect may cause infection to spread among the residents, leading to more dangerous conditions like sepsis. Most states like California require medical staff to be on-call 24/7. If there is not enough staff to respond to every resident, that constitutes medical neglect.

Social Neglect

If nursing home staff prevent your loved one from interacting with visitors or other residents, they’re committing social neglect. Residents require frequent social interaction to promote their physical and mental health. Studies have linked isolation to cognitive decline, so make sure your loved one receives emotional care in their facility.

Examples of nursing home social neglect include:

  • Failing to move residents with cognitive issues
  • Not providing canes, walkers, and wheelchairs to disabled residents
  • Unintentionally isolating residents from others

Viewing the nursing home’s activity schedule will go a long way to avoiding facilities suffering from social neglect.

Signs of Neglect in a Nursing Home

Spotting the signs of nursing home neglect will give you time to report the facility before further damage is done. Your loved one may suffer from a condition like Alzheimer’s disease, preventing them from reporting the neglectful behavior themselves.

Common signs of nursing home neglect are:

  • Untreated bed sores and/or unexplained injuries
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Mouth sores or dental problems that suggest either dehydration or malnutrition
  • Withdrawal from social activities or becoming non-communicative around certain staff members
  • The person bruises easily or has wounds that won’t heal
  • You see unusual new behaviors, like biting or rocking back and forth
  • Frequent illnesses (especially if the facility cannot explain how your loved one got sick)
  • Your loved one appears fearful or has anxiety (regularly becoming upset or agitated)
  • Missing medical devices/aids and other items your loved one needs on a daily basis, such as:
    • Glasses
    • Walker
    • Hearing aid
    • Medications
    • Dentures
  • Poor hygiene and/or ripped or stained underclothing
  • Unexplained changes in your loved one’s sleeping or eating habits

Common Causes of Nursing Home Neglect

There may be multiple reasons why neglect exists in your nursing home, but most cases occur due to the following reasons below.


A recent survey found that 94% of nursing homes reported facing staffing shortages, ruining their ability to provide adequate care. Understaffing is a serious problem in the nursing home industry as workers continue to quit while Baby Boomers hit closer to retirement age.

One of the core standards of care written in the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 requires facilities to maintain adequate staffing. Most states like Maine also have strict staffing requirements they must follow to maintain medicare and medicaid funding.

Maintaining staff should be one of a nursing home’s main priorities. If you see your loved one neglected by an understaffed facility, you may have a case for compensation.

Improper Training

Nursing homes have a federal and state responsibility to adequately train their workers. If they fail to offer proper training, the staff may fall into patterns of nursing home neglect.

The effects of improper training may include:

  • Misplacing medication
  • Causing unnecessary harm to sick residents
  • Improperly cleaning those who can’t bathe themselves
  • Not knowing how to use restraints, causing bodily injury

Educating nursing home staff is key to preventing further neglect. Your loved one should not suffer due to the effects of an improperly-trained staff member.

Hiring Unqualified Workers

It’s important to hire qualified nursing home staff to promote a healthy environment for employees and residents. Nursing homes require background checks on employees for criminal records and certifications. This prevents hiring workers who have a history of mistreating vulnerable adults.

Nursing Home Neglect vs. Abuse

The difference between nursing home neglect and abuse is that one involves intentional physical harm while the other is accidental. Both require swift legal action as another person’s negligence causes someone to sustain unjust losses, regardless of intention.

Preventing Nursing Home Neglect

You can help prevent nursing home neglect by:

  • Accessing caregiver resources in your town or neighborhood, such as respite care or caregiver support groups.
  • Making good use of local or community-based resources, including home-delivered meals and senior centers.
  • Ask other family members and friends to share in the physical, emotional, and social care needs of the older people in your life.
  • Watch for signs of abuse before admitting your loved one to an understaffed or overworked nursing home.

Remember: It is okay to ask for help. Everyone has a right to be safe.

Prevent social isolation in the elderly by supporting community centers, public transit, and programs designed to empower older people in your life. Over 1 million Americans live in nursing homes, many of which are funded by the federal government.

Nursing homes that receive Medicaid or Medicare funds must comply with federal laws such as CFR 483.13, designed to prevent abuse and neglect of the elderly.

Who is Legally Responsible for Nursing Home Neglect?

Nursing homes as well as their staff members can be legally responsible for nursing home neglect. The facility is responsible for hiring and training enough staff members to adequately care for their residents. Staff members are in charge of meeting their resident’s physical needs, causing substantial harm when ignored.

How to Report Neglect in a Nursing Home

Report instances of nursing home neglect to the authorities if there is immediate severe harm done. Don’t be afraid to call 911 if a nursing home resident is experiencing an emergency. The police can conduct an investigation to find out who’s responsible for this behavior and what laws were broken due to their misconduct.

If no one is experiencing immediate harm, each state has several helpful resources to call for nursing home neglect.

Adult Protective Services (APS) and social workers can investigate a nursing home while providing welfare checks for your loved one. They handle non-urgent complaints of nursing home neglect while recommending the next steps.

Each state has a long-term care ombudsman who can advocate for your loved one’s rights after experiencing neglect. They know your state’s nursing home laws as they represent residents for all long-term care facilities.

After reporting the neglectful behavior, make sure to contact a nursing home attorney who can act as your legal advisor. You can pursue financial compensation to cover your loved one’s losses. Their services are generally free until you get your settlement in the mail.

Connect With a Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Through LegalASAP

Asking a lawyer to file your nursing home abuse claim is not a frivolous choice. This action holds nursing home staff accountable for their actions. In fact, it also stops funding to facilities that violate federal standard of care guidelines.

If you suspect elder abuse or neglect inside a facility in your community, reach out to an attorney today. Your loved one is counting on you. You can sign up for a free consultation today through LegalASAP, and when you do, here’s what to expect during your consultation.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online nursing home neglect case evaluation now!

Jan Reburiano is a content writer and SEO specialist for law firms focusing on personal injury, disability, employment law, among other practices. He has written and edited numerous articles and created commercial spots for broadcasters that you can find in his LinkedIn. Jan currently lives in Los Angeles, California while writing for clients from around the United States.