Common Signs of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Friday, July 10, 2015

Common Signs of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

The decision to place a loved one in an elder care or nursing home facility is extremely emotional and challenging for many people. Family members hope for the smoothest adjustment possible, facilitated by caring and knowledgeable medical professionals. Most nursing homes and their staff have the best interests of residents in mind at all times.  However, exceptions definitely exist. Emotional abuse, also known as “elder psychological abuse,” is an unfortunate reality. Nurses, nursing assistants, doctors, volunteers, and other elder care employees are in a position of power with regard to elderly patients and residents. Most will use that power in a caring, helpful way. Those who do not should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If someone you care about resides in an elder care facility, it is important to understand the common signs of emotional abuse.

Different Kinds of Emotional Abuse

Non-verbal abuse includes repeated isolation from social activities and being ignored on a consistent and intentional basis. Many elder care residents have difficulty walking. Neglecting to assist with daily living needs like going to the bathroom, bathing, or eating is another kind of non-verbal abuse. Being ignored may result in depression, weight loss, and other health issues.

Types of verbal elder abuse include humiliation and blame. A caretaker may threaten to hurt a resident, yell, or act in an aggressive manner. This kind of intimidation causes fear, shame, and hopelessness, contributing to an unhealthy power dynamic. Demeaning behavior and scapegoating are other forms of verbal abuse. Residents diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be targeted by abusers. Reports of abuse may be disregarded as confusion triggered by the disease, allowing abusive behavior to go unnoticed.

What to Look For

If you are concerned that your loved one may be suffering from elder emotional abuse, there are certain clues to look for. In cases of neglect, you may notice a lack of cleanliness. Observe the state of fingernails and hair hygiene. Are the sheets clean? What is the state of the bathroom? Notice changes in toiletry supplies. Has the soap and shampoo been used regularly? Is there drinking water consistently available? Lack of these necessities may demonstrate a level of inattention that could lead to serious health issues and depression.

Certain behaviors serve as indicators that an environment is unhealthy. If your loved one exhibits any of the following signs, further investigation is recommended:

  • Uncharacteristically reserved, withdrawn, quiet, or depressed
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Uncomfortable or fearful of answering questions, indicating intimidation from abuser has been established
  • Exhibits a sense of hopelessness
  • Uncharacteristically violent towards others or him or herself
  • Abnormal mood swings
  • Sudden changes in eating habits
  • Sleeping more or less than normal

Malman Law – Elder Care Attorneys

Discovering that a loved one may be the victim of emotional abuse or neglect is an agonizing situation. Attorney Steven J. Malman has extensive experience with cases involving elder care facilities. He is committed to creating safe, healthy environments for our older community. At Malman Law, our skilled, compassionate legal team will fight for your loved one’s fundamental rights. Contact us today.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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