Some of the signs of emotional abuse in nursing homes include sudden changes in personality or behavior, anger, anxiety, depression, withdrawal from normal activities, disinterest in hobbies, self-harm, failure to care for themselves, failure to take medication, sudden changes in eating, sleeping, or weight, fear of nursing home staff, low self-esteem, and repetitive behavior such as rocking, pulling one’s own hair, grinding teeth or hand sucking.
Emotional and Psychological Abuse of Nursing Home Residents
Emotional or psychological abuse is when one person inflicts emotional trauma to another person through non-physical means. This type of abuse can be verbal or non-verbal and uses power and control to scare, intimidate, or isolate a victim. Caretakers in nursing homes have a powerful position in the relationship with their nursing home residents. Nursing home residents are completely reliant on the staff for their very basic needs such as food, water, medicine, and the ability to remain clean and healthy.
Types of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Emotional abuse in nursing homes can be either verbal or non-verbal. Some of the ways that emotional or psychological abuse occurs in nursing homes can include the following:
- Yelling at a resident.
- Shaming the resident either in private or in front of other residents.
- Mocking or insulting a resident for any reason.
- Demeaning a resident by talking about them in front of other residents or the staff.
- Accusing or blaming the resident.
- Ignoring a resident’s requests, or trivializing their concerns.
- Threatening a resident with either physical or sexual abuse.
- Isolating a resident from their family or from social activities with other residents.
- Moving necessary possessions of the resident, such as their walker, wheelchair or cane. that would make it difficult for them to move around the nursing home.
These are just examples of the many ways that a nursing home staff member could emotionally or psychologically abuse a resident. There are many other ways that a resident could suffer from emotional abuse. Make sure to always look for unusual behavior in your loved one that may signal emotional abuse.
Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Often, the warning signs of emotional abuse are exhibited not only in your loved one, but in the nursing home staff themselves. Some of the warning signs that emotional abuse may be occurring in a nursing home include the following:
- Established history of elder abuse.
- Exhausted, stressed, or tired-looking staff members.
- Poor treatment of residents in front of you or other guests.
- Staff members prevent you from visiting with your loved one either in person or on the phone.
- Only one staff member takes care of your loved one, which could indicate that they have too great a control over your loved one.
- Hostile reactions or evasive answers by the staff members when you ask questions about your loved one.
- Lack of concern for either you or your loved one.
- Fake empathy or exaggerated concern regarding you or your loved one.
Consequences of Emotional Abuse
The consequences of emotional abuse to nursing home residents can be catastrophic, severe, and permanent. If taken to an extreme, cases of emotional abuse can even rise to the level of wrongful death. Psychological and emotional abuse can lead to severe stress and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and other nervous disorders, which can lower immune systems and the ability of an elderly person to be able to fight off infections.
Stress can cause anxiety, which can lead to falls, weight loss, and other serious injuries. Some residents may develop deep and severe depression and withdraw from family and normal activities. Some elderly residents may stop taking care of themselves, stop taking medicine, or even engage in acts of self-harm. These dramatic changes in a weakened person can lead to additional medical complications or death.
If you discover emotional abuse in your loved one’s nursing home, you may be able to remove your elderly loved one from the nursing home and relocate them to a safe nursing home or retirement community. Additionally, counseling for elderly loved ones who have endured emotional abuse can help them process what has happened to them and to help them feel safer.
How to Report Emotional Abuse
If you suspect that someone is emotionally abusing your loved one in a nursing home, you should contact adult protective services or the police. These agencies will assign a government-appointed caregiver to your loved one specifically to evaluate the conditions of the nursing home and the suspected abuse. Your loved one will have the opportunity to visit with this government-appointed caregiver and explain the emotional abuse they have had to endure and provide specific examples. It is always best to try to report emotional abuse as soon as possible, as some elderly loved ones may have memory loss, and it may be difficult for them to remember specific circumstances of emotional abuse.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
If you have noticed signs that someone is emotionally abusing your loved one in their nursing home, visit with one of our nursing home lawyers at the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your loved one’s legal rights. We do not shy away from tough cases, and you do not pay unless we win.