How You Can Fight Against Elder Mistreatment in Nursing Facilities, at Home, and in Public

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Older adults can face abuse in a multitude of ways. It doesn’t matter where they permanently reside or whom they interact with. And unfortunately, elder abuse is more prominent today as adults are living longer worldwide.

Abuse can take the form of physical injuries like bruises, cuts, or broken bones. Or it may manifest as poor hygiene, behavioral changes like mood swings and depression, or unusual financial behavior. If you notice an older loved one experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to investigate.

Correctly handling any type of mistreatment can seem like an insurmountable problem. Knowing where to turn, whom to ask for help, and how to navigate the situation can be overwhelming. If you find yourself in this position, keep reading. Below are recommendations for fighting against the mistreatment of elders no matter where they are experiencing it.

1. When Your Loved One Lives in a Nursing Home

Nursing homes are one of the first institutions people turn to when they can no longer care for an elderly loved one alone. Nursing homes are meant to provide elders with a safe, comfortable environment in their later years. Staff members, including nurses, therapists, and caregivers, are hired to be there for residents 24/7. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect does happen as more and more of these facilities reach maximum capacity.

If your elderly loved one is living at a nursing home and you suspect some form of mistreatment, an investigation is likely necessary. First, speak with the staff to see if they are able to explain what is going on. A bruise on your grandma’s arm may be a result of her stumbling to find the bathroom in the middle of the night. However, multiple bruises, scrapes, or wounds to the head are probably signs of physical abuse. Installing a camera in their room can provide you with visual evidence.

If you aren’t satisfied with the nursing home’s responses or are looking for backup support, call a nursing home abuse attorney. These legal professionals specialize in helping you gather evidence and file an abuse claim. Additionally, they can help you navigate through the lawsuit, explaining the required processes. You may be entitled to compensation depending on the verdict, and an attorney can help ensure you get what you deserve.

2. When You Suspect Abuse in a Domestic Setting

Domestic elder abuse, or domestic violence, is any type of abuse that occurs in the elder’s home. This abuse is typically perpetrated by a close family member, relative, friend, or caregiver. Because there are fewer witnesses in a domestic setting, this type of abuse may be harder to detect. It can range from physical and sexual abuse to psychological abuse and neglect. Financial abuse also fits under this domestic setting category.

Because older individuals tend to spend more time at home, domestic abuse can be hidden for weeks or months. For this reason, be sure to check in on your loved one regularly, either through in-person visits or video calls. Make sure you have a way of contacting them directly, not just via their designated caregiver. Provide them with a simple smartphone and let them know they can contact you at any time without feeling like a bother.

If you do suspect or see abuse, take action immediately. While you may be unable to remove your elderly loved one from the domestic setting right away, you can get help. Each state has designated services, commonly known as Adult Protective Services, for investigating elder abuse allegations. These services can assist you in properly reporting and acting on the abuse.

3. When You Witness Mistreatment in Public

Disrespect, humiliation, threats, and harassment are all examples of abuse that can occur in public. Neglect, which includes poor hygiene or malnutrition, is another form of mistreatment that bystanders may notice. Of course, addressing elder mistreatment in public is tricky, as you won’t have a full grasp of the situation. You won’t know if the caregiver simply gave up on providing the elder individual a clean shirt because they refused to put one on.

Yet it’s important to remember that abuse or neglect can happen anytime, anywhere. You may see it at a grocery store, where a clerk refuses to help an older man with the payment system. You may see it at a movie theater, where an aged woman isn’t able to get up the stairs and her caretaker won’t help.

There is no protocol for what to do in these situations, so use your compassion and common sense. For example, you can help the elderly man who was having trouble paying by speaking with the manager of the grocery store. Of course, don’t hesitate to call 911 if a situation escalates or seems dangerous. But if it’s safe to do so, don’t leave a situation until you either seek additional help or see the situation resolved. The individual won’t necessarily thank you, but your conscience will.


Fighting elder abuse is no easy task. Depending on the specific scenario, it can feel as if you’re overstepping. However, trust your intuition and never be ashamed of speaking up if you see something that doesn’t look or feel right. Always protect yourself by seeking help and tapping into established resources to ensure the issue is settled safely and appropriately.

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How You Can Fight Against Elder Mistreatment in Nursing Facilities, at Home, and in Public
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