Types of Nursing Home Abuse: Signs, Prevention, and Legal Recourse

Selecting a nursing home for a loved one should mean peace of mind, knowing they’ll receive compassionate care. Sadly, all too often, the most vulnerable in these facilities suffer abuse ranging from neglect to manipulation, violence, assault, and financial exploitation.

Due to physical and mental constraints, cases of elder abuse frequently go unreported. But by understanding common warning signs and exercising diligent family oversight, we can reduce risk and empower advocacy if issues emerge.

This guide examines types of nursing home abuse, outlines preventative measures families can take, and spotlights legal recourse options.

Common Forms of Nursing Home Abuse in Wisconsin

There are several common types of elder abuse that happen in nursing homes across our state:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves a nursing home resident suffering bodily harm from the intentional acts of staff or other residents. This can include:

  • Hitting, slapping, punching, or kicking
  • Improper use of restraints
  • Force-feeding
  • Physical punishment

Signs that physical abuse has occurred may include unexplained injuries like bruises, cuts, broken bones, sprains, or burns. A sudden change in behavior, such as increased fear or anxiety, can also suggest physical mistreatment.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves unwanted sexual contact between a nursing home resident and a staff member, visitor, or another resident. This vulnerable population is at an increased risk as their ability to consent can be unclear. Warning signs of sexual abuse include:

  • Bruising around the breasts or genital area
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding or sexually transmitted infections
  • Torn, stained, or bloody undergarments
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior

Emotional Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse in nursing homes involves deliberately causing a resident emotional anguish through threats, insults, humiliation, intimidation, or isolation. Signs may include:

  • Unexplained changes in mood or behavior, such as depression, withdrawal, or agitation
  • A sudden lack of interest in socializing or favorite activities
  • Uncharacteristic signs of fear or anxiety around certain staff

Financial Exploitation

Financial abuse involves stealing money, belongings, or assets from a nursing home resident. Warning signs include missing personal items, unusual activity in bank accounts, or sudden changes to financial documents like wills or power of attorney forms.


Neglect occurs when a nursing home fails to properly care for a resident. This can include depriving them of basic needs like food, water, cleanliness, medical care, and safety precautions. Signs of neglect include:

  • Poor hygiene, soiled clothes, uncut nails
  • Unexplained weight loss and dehydration
  • Untreated bedsores and other injuries
  • Lack of medical aids like eyeglasses or dentures

Financial Exploitation

Financial abuse occurs when a caregiver or family member steals money or valuables from a nursing home resident. It may also involve trickery, scams, or forcing changes to legal documents like wills and power of attorney forms.

Missing funds, unusual account activity, and sudden changes in documents are red flags of financial exploitation.


Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to provide for a resident’s basic needs. This may involve inadequate medical care, poor hygiene, unsafe conditions, malnutrition, dehydration, and abandonment.

Signs of neglect include unexplained weight loss, bedsores, poor hygiene, overgrown nails, and unsanitary living conditions.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse in Wisconsin

There are several steps Wisconsin care facilities can take to prevent elder abuse and neglect:

  • Comprehensive abuse prevention training for all staff
  • Thorough background checks on new hires
  • Encourage family involvement and visits
  • Anonymous tip lines for reporting concerns
  • Increase oversight with unannounced inspections
  • Review surveillance footage regularly

Taking preventative measures and reporting all suspicions can help curb nursing home abuse across the state.

Taking Legal Action After Nursing Home Abuse in Wisconsin

If your loved one was harmed in a Wisconsin nursing home, our elder abuse attorneys may be able to help you pursue justice and compensation.

Here are some steps we recommend:

  • Document the Abuse: If possible, photograph any physical injuries from assaults. Also, keep detailed records of incidents, changes in health or behavior, and your loved one’s statements about what occurred.
  • Report to Authorities: Alert local law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services immediately about suspected abuse.
  • Consult a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: An experienced Wisconsin elder abuse lawyer can investigate what happened and advise you of your legal options. This may involve filing a lawsuit against the nursing facility to recover damages.

The team at Welcenbach Law Offices has decades of experience holding nursing homes in Wisconsin accountable when they fail residents. If your loved one was neglected or abused, we can help you take legal action immediately.

Don’t wait – visit them online at https://www.welcenbachlaw.com/ for a consultation. Justice and compensation may be closer than you think.