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Abuse in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Abuse taking place in skilled nursing facilities happens far too often, and this is one of the reasons there is a stigma surrounding these facilities. The purpose of these specific facilities is to provide patients with care and medical help when they are unable to do certain tasks independently. Most of the time, these facilities are for elderly patients, but younger patients who have suffered spine or brain injuries may need help as well.

Abuse in a skilled nursing facility can happen in a number of different ways. In some cases, the abuse may be more difficult to spot than in others. It’s important to understand the different types of abuse, and to keep watch for them to ensure the safety of your loved one.

Common Types of Abuse in Skilled Nursing Facilities


In order for patients to do well and to remain healthy in a skilled nursing facility, they need to have proper care from the staff. They need quality meals, to be clean, and to have their medication on time. In cases of neglect, which is the most common type of abuse in these facilities, the patients are not getting the help and attention they need. In some cases, patients are left on their own for days. Family members concerned over this should talk with the patients about how often the staff visits, feeds them, changes their sheets, and more.

In some cases, patients can’t communicate though. If that’s the case, family members should look for dirty cloths and linen, bedsores, signs of malnutrition and more.


One of the most common types of abuse to occur in these facilities is physical abuse. The hitting, pinching, and all around general rough treatment of patients are all types of abuse common in skilled nursing facilities. This is generally easy to notice as  visible cuts, bruises, and bloody clothing are common signs and symptoms. Those who visit their loved ones in a facility should watch out for these specific physical signs and symptoms.


Threats to patients, talking down to patients, and telling them to perform demeaning acts are just a few examples of verbal abuse. In some cases, the patients may become withdrawn or even fearful. Some patients may even develop aggression.


Sexual abuse of patients can happen as well, and it is on the rise in skilled nursing facilities. This can take many different forms. Improper touching, jokes and gestures and even rape happen to patients who are putting their trust in these institutions. In some cases the signs are visible, such as bruising in private areas. Other signs can include withdrawing from activities, and an unwillingness to communicate.


Why Does This Happen?

Why are there cases of abuse in skilled nursing facilities? There are a number of reasons. Often, it stems from not having enough people on the staff to provide proper care for patients. It is vital to have a highly trained staff that have gone through rigorous background checks as well. Staff members also need to have training that matches the needs of the patients at the facility. For example, those who have no training when it comes to dealing with patients suffering from dementia should not be allowed to work with those patients. It’s also a good idea for the facilities to conduct their own inspections and to talk with their staff about possible burnout.

Preventing Abuse

Family and friends of the patients should visit as often as possible and be aware of everything that’s happening in the lives of their loved one. They should ask questions and raise concerns whenever something seems out of place at the facility or with the patient. Those who visit regularly will often notice changes in behavior that could indicate problems. If there are issues, remove the patient from the facility immediately, and report it to the authorities so there can be an investigation.

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