How Can I Document Nursing Home Abuse?

When you put your aging loved one in a nursing home, you expect the staff to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. In its instructions to long-term care ombudsmen, the Administration on Aging defines abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish or deprivation by a person, including a caregiver, of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness” As of 2018, 15,600 nursing homes were housing 1.3 million senior citizens. Since these facilities and their staff are rarely held accountable for their treatment of older generations, it is vital to understand how to identify nursing home abuse and what type of evidence, such as medical records and ombudsman complaints, you need to collect. A Virginia Beach nursing home abuse attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you prove your claim and secure compensation for the damages your loved one sustained. Call us today to schedule a free consultation. 

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

There are multiple types of nursing home abuse including emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and sexual abuse.  

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is any form of verbal, non-physical abuse, such as: 

  • Harassment
  • Insults
  • Threats
  • Yelling

Emotional abuse also includes depriving a resident of their dignity by, for example, not allowing them to have any say in their daily decisions or leaving them in soiled clothes. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2020, emotional abuse is the leading form of nursing home abuse with nearly 34% of polled staff admitting to emotionally abusing residents.  

Physical Abuse

Physical neglect is defined as anything that denies residents their primary needs for dignity and survival, including shelter, warmth, food, and a clean environment. Physical abuse occurs when a resident endures impairment, pain, or bodily harm due to neglect or mistreatment. Physical abuse includes:

  • Active abuse such as punching, hitting, kicking, and slapping
  • The misuse of restraints
  • Physical neglect

Research has shown that physical abuse is usually committed as retaliation against residents who are physically aggressive or acting out due to dementia or other forms of mental decline.


When a caretaker fails to provide adequate shelter, food, protection, or medical care, it is considered neglect. This form of abuse can result in:  

  • Infections
  • Bedsores
  • MRSA
  • Sepsis
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Clogged breathing tubes
  • Choking

Neglect is distinguished from abuse in that the act is largely unintentional.  

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation is the misuse, unlawful taking, or concealment of property or funds. Senior citizens, especially those in cognitive decline, are extremely vulnerable to fraud and exploitation.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse refers to any non-consensual sexual contact. Indicators of this type of abuse include bruises around the affected areas and the presence of sexually transmitted diseases.

What Kind of Evidence Will Support My Nursing Home Abuse Claim?

Whether the abuse is chronic or a one-off occurrence, you and your loved one have the right to bring these parties to account. You can prove your allegations of nursing home abuse by: 

Watching and Documenting 

Knowing the signs of neglect and abuse is not only essential to your case but to the health and well-being of your aging family member. Signs that they have been the victim of neglect or abuse include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Drastic changes in mood
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Withdrawing from activities they usually enjoy
  • Appearing uneasy or afraid around staff

Always be sure to document these conditions as soon as you observe them.

Obtain Their Medical and Nursing Home Records

Medical records can highlight periods of neglect or abuse, including hospitalizations for malnutrition or dehydration, medical treatments for injuries or bed sores, and other health issues linked to substandard care. If the facility participates in Medicaid or Medicare programs, you can review your relative’s nursing home records. Look for inconsistencies, excessive use of medication, unnecessary treatments, and injuries with no explanation


Photographs are often used to strengthen nursing home abuse cases, including photos of physical injuries, dangerous premises, and unsatisfactory living conditions.  

Ombudsman Complaints

Your local ombudsman program will have a record of any complaints that have been filed against the care facility along with their outcome. Numerous allegations of neglect or abuse can help establish a history of substandard care. 

Eyewitness Statements

The neglect or abuse may have been experienced or witnessed by other residents, visiting family members, or other workers. A written statement that supports your allegations could be an invaluable piece of evidence. 

Licenses and Inspections

If a nursing home participates in Medicaid and Medicare programs, they are subject to yearly inspections by the state. If the facility has been cited in the past, it can help prove that it routinely fails to meet state requirements. Additionally, some nursing homes operate without being properly licensed. Obtaining these records will most likely require the assistance of a knowledgeable Virginia Beach nursing home abuse attorney.

Working With an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Proving abusive or negligent nursing home care involves a lot of red tape. Records from state and county governments must be obtained, and a motion to compel the nursing home to provide certain documents may have to be filed. A skilled lawyer will know the most effective methods of overcoming these obstacles and getting the evidence you need to prove your nursing home abuse case.  

Talk to a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

The privacy that nursing homes offer their residents can be a positive experience. Unfortunately, this privacy can also harm a resident’s safety by preventing relatives from learning the truth about their care. If you suspect your family member has been the victim of neglect or abuse by a nursing home or its staff, partner with an experienced Virginia Beach nursing home abuse attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We can help you navigate roadblocks the facility may use to stop you from gathering evidence that supports your allegations. That is exactly what we did for one client when we secured a $300,000 arbitration award on her behalf after a fall at a nursing home. To schedule a free consultation regarding your potential nursing home abuse claim, call (833) 997-1774 or fill out the simple contact form on our website. We have offices in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Hampton.