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Boca Raton Estate Planning Lawyer / Blog / Elder Law / How Do I Recognize Nursing Home Abuse in a Non-Verbal Patient?

How Do I Recognize Nursing Home Abuse in a Non-Verbal Patient?

By Michael Brevda, Managing Attorney at Senior Justice Law Firm

If your parent is in a nursing home and unable to communicate, you must monitor their well-being and underlying health conditions. When a resident cannot communicate their needs, it is impossible to know if they are being neglected or abused.

Unfortunately, nursing home staff will not always accurately convey your parent’s condition. This is true especially if your parent suffered a neglect-related injury.

For these reasons, it is crucial that you remain vigilant in looking for signs of abuse and neglect.

Below are some of the more frequent neglect-related injuries we see in skilled nursing facilities.

Bed Sores

Bed sores are also called pressure ulcers. These are preventable wounds on the skin that form due to unrelieved pressure.

Bed sores are the most common nursing home neglect injury that we litigate. Sadly, sometimes an elderly bed-bound patient is left sitting in bed or a chair for hours at a time without being repositioned.

Bed sores are staged from 1 to 4, with a stage 4 bed sore being the most severe pressure injury.


Fall injuries are the second most frequent injury that we encounter as nursing home negligence attorneys. The most common result of a nursing home fall are broken bones.

While it is true that not all nursing home falls are preventable, it is the legal duty of the facility to implement a fall prevention plan. All too often we find that the nursing home’s fall preventative measures were woefully deficient. This is how repeated falls occur in a long term care facility.

Unexplained Fractures

The most common cause of “mystery fractures” in nursing home residents are unreported falls. In many immobile residents, an unexplained fracture is secondary to the resident being dropped during a transfer. In the most extreme circumstances, our attorneys have uncovered cases where phantom fractures were caused by physical assaults, either perpetrated by staff or other residents.

Regardless of the cause, unexplained broken bones must always be investigated.

Rapid Weight Loss

Nursing homes employ nutrition specialists and are legally required to ensure a resident is getting enough calories. If a resident has compromised swallowing, a special soft diet can be ordered.

It is highly suspicious when a resident suffers rapid weight loss of more than 10% of their BMI (body mass index). Rapid weight loss suggests nursing home neglect. In vulnerable immunocompromised residents, losing a lot of weight quickly is often fatal.

Failure to Timely Treat Infection

Infections are quite common in the nursing home setting. Therefore, it is not necessarily negligent to allow a resident to develop an infection.

Most nursing home infection wrongful death cases stem from a failure to timely treat a symptomatic resident. In other words, if a patient is visibly ill and the nursing home fails to react in a timely manner, then the resident passes away of sepsis or some other infection, this may be grounds for a wrongful death claim.


Most nursing homes do the right thing. However, a healthy degree of skepticism is beneficial.

Always try to visit the nursing home at random times so the staff does not learn your schedule. Further, when you do visit, make sure to inspect your loved one’s skin for ulcers, wounds or bruises.

If your parent suffered a suspicious injury, you should investigate what happened. Contact a nursing home abuse attorney who can provide you a free case consultation.

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