Yes. In Illinois, the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act states that any abuse of a long-term care facility resident can be guilty of a Class 3 felony. Abuse is intentionally or knowingly causing any physical or mental injury. Therefore, under extreme circumstances, law enforcement could arrest a nursing home employee for emotional abuse toward an elderly resident. If found guilty of charges related to a Class 3 felony, the defendant may face up to at least ten years in prison.
Emotional Abuse Comes in Many Forms
According to a report on elder abuse in residential long-term care settings, emotional abuse in nursing homes can be either verbal or non-verbal. Emotional, mental, or psychological abuse results in severe consequences for the elderly victim. Depending on the severity of emotional abuse, it may be a criminal act.
Some of the ways that emotional or psychological harm can occur in nursing homes include:
- Yelling or screaming at a resident
- Demeaning or berating a patient
- Shaming a resident in front of others, or in private
- Embarrassing the senior purposefully
- Threatening a resident with physical or sexual abuse, or threatening actions such as deprivation of food, water, or guests
- Ignoring a patient’s requests, such as to go to the bathroom, or for food or water
- Purposefully isolating the resident making it difficult for them to interact with friends or family
- Removing important and necessary possessions of the senior such as a walker, wheelchair, or cane
Some of the above will qualify as emotional abuse but not rise to the level of a criminal act worthy of arrest. Law enforcement officials evaluate the situation and make determinations based on available evidence. Emotional abuse of the elderly remains a severe offense, and courts take these cases seriously. In fact, the state of Illinois established a protocol for law enforcement to respond to victims of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This document provides guidance for abuse intervention and additional training resources.
Consequences of Emotional Abuse
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that 10% of seniors will experience some form of elder abuse, accounting for an estimated 5 million people. Additionally, these instances generally go unreported. The National Institutes of Health claims that out of 14 cases of elder mistreatment, only one case gets reported to the proper authorities. Elderly victims of emotional abuse may suffer catastrophic, severe, or permanent injuries.
Examples can include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sudden weight loss
- Severe depression
- Lowered immune system defenses
- Increased risk of sudden death
- Severe anxiety
NCOA also reports that seniors who experience elder abuse are 300 times more likely to die suddenly than those who do not. If you suspect that your elderly loved one is experiencing any kind of physical or emotional abuse, you should consider taking legal action.
For a free legal consultation, call (800) 794-0444
You Can Prevent Elder Abuse
When families entrust their loved ones to the care of a nursing home, they may be curious about how they can prevent elder abuse. Relatives may not discover instances of harm until the damage is severe, or when the situation itself is beyond repair.
Steps you can take to prevent elder abuse include:
- Monitoring your loved one’s health condition
- Ensuring that they open and post their own mail
- Allowing them access to a phone or other communication device
- Planning frequent in-person visits
- Acquainting yourself with members of the nursing home staff
- Helping plan their future, such as examining their will or planning fun activities
Social isolation is one of the largest factors that contribute to elder abuse. When seniors feel alone and disconnected, they may not report instances of abuse or neglect. However, feeling empowered in their day-to-day life and keeping close relationships with friends and family will improve their emotional wellbeing and vitality.
Legal Remedies for Emotional Abuse
Upon discovering that your loved one has sustained abuse, you may be unsure of how to proceed.
When working with a legal team, you can further understand your legal options and plan to pursue justice on your loved one’s behalf. At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we can investigate the circumstances surrounding the abuse, including collecting witness statements, evaluating medical records, and even checking surveillance cameras for any signs of aggression from the staff.
Along with seeking punitive charges against the other party, we can pursue compensation on your behalf that may cover expenses related to your loved one’s mistreatment. This settlement can cover pain and suffering, therapy, and the cost of relocating to another facility.
If you suspect that your loved one in a nursing home suffered any type of abuse, you can pursue financial recovery and criminal charges. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 794-0444 to help you with your next steps.