Emotional abuse in nursing homes is a deeply troubling issue that affects many elderly individuals.

This mistreatment of nursing home residents can lead to severe mental distress, impacting the overall quality of life of our loved ones.

It is our responsibility to understand, recognize, and address this issue to ensure the safety and well-being of our elderly population.

Do you suspect your loved one is a victim of psychological or emotional abuse and displaying unusual behavior, agitation, excessive fear, or trauma?

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC hold accountable all perpetrators who commit emotional elder abuse in nursing homes.

Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer at (888) 424-5757 or use the online form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Emotional Abuse in Nursing Home

Overview of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, emotional abuse, often overlooked due to its non-physical nature, is a concern of nursing homes.

This elderly emotional elder abuse involves intentionally inflicting anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.

This elder emotional abuse can manifest in various ways, including threats, humiliation, ‘silent treatment,’ and insults.

This elder psychological abuse is believed to be the most common form of nursing home abuse, more than physical or sexual abuse, with an incidence rate of 54.1%.

Definition and Impact of Emotional Abuse as Elder Mistreatment

According to the World Health Organization, emotional elder abuse is defined as the intentional infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.

This includes the following:

  • Threatening
  • Harassing
  • Intimidating
  • Attempting to humiliate an elderly individual

Emotional elder abuse includes the following:

  • Degrading statements
  • Humiliating language
  • Intentionally causing long waits for food, medication, or basic care
  • Interfering with decision-making
  • Making false accusations
  • Verbal aggression
  • Placing an elder’s assistive devices out of reach

Emotional elder abuse involves controlling the elderly person’s freedom to intentionally cause feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and emotional pain.

Prevalence of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Emotional elder abuse is the most common form of elder abuse.

In a study by the National Institutes for Health (NIH), interviews with a group of over 200 nursing home staff members indicated that “a total of 81% of the staff reported that they had observed and 40% had committed at least one incident of psychological abuse during the same 12-month period.”

These alarming abuse statistics highlight the prevalence and severity of emotional harm involving nursing home residents.

Types of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Emotional trauma in nursing homes can be categorized into two main types: verbal and non-verbal emotional abusive behavior.

Both types can cause elder emotional abuse victims severe emotional pain and suffering.

Verbal Emotional Abuse

Unlike physical abuse that inflicts outward pain, or financial abuse involving theft, verbal-emotional trauma involves the use of words to degrade, intimidate, or belittle the elderly person, including the following:

  • Being mean or extremely cold
  • Blaming the elderly person, especially for things beyond their control
  • Causing guilt or shame
  • Embarrassing the individual, especially when others are around
  • Insulting
  • Ridiculing
  • Name-calling
  • Intimidating
  • Talking to the nursing home resident as if they were a child
  • Threatening to harm the elderly individual
  • Yelling, screaming, or swearing

Nonverbal Abuse Causing the Patient Emotional Harm

Non-verbal emotional abuse, on the other hand, involves actions that cause emotional distress without using words.

Non-verbal elder emotional trauma can include the following:

  • Hiding personal belongings
  • Giving silent treatment
  • Ignoring the individual
  • Isolating an elderly individual from other residents
  • Limiting access to necessities, such as food, water, or the restroom
  • Another patient threatened the victim

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse in the Elderly

Recognizing the warning signs of emotional trauma is crucial in protecting our loved ones from harm.

These signs can be behavioral or physical.

Behavioral Indicators of Emotional Abuse

Behavioral indicators of emotional abuse may include the following:

  • Agitation
  • Avoidance of eye contact with a specific caregiver or mental health care provider
  • Demeanor that is unrelated to any medical condition or medical treatments
  • Nervousness, unusual behavior, or fear
  • Increasing depression
  • Passivity
  • Reluctance to talk openly
  • Feeling extreme sadness
  • Making the patient feel guilty or cowering when the abuser is around
  • Self-neglect
  • Sudden changes in sleeping or eating patterns

Physical Symptoms of Emotional Abuse

Physical symptoms of emotional trauma are often less apparent but can include sudden weight loss, refusal to eat or drink, and severe memory impairment.

These symptoms can also be signs of other medical conditions, so a thorough investigation is necessary.

Emotional Elder Abuse Risk Factors

The vulnerable population in the nursing home is most at risk of emotional elder abuse.

Whether the elderly person lives in an assisted living facility or skilled caregiving home, those most at risk of verbal abuse include the following:

  • Those with mental or physical impairments
  • Men and women isolated from family and friends
  • Elderly patients dependent on others for care

Perpetrators Who Commit Emotional Abuse

Various individuals, including family members, nursing staff, and other caregivers, can perpetrate emotional elder abuse.

Family Members as Perpetrators Causing Emotional and Physical Harm

Family members can sometimes be the perpetrators of emotional elder abuse from various contributing factors, including the following:

  • Stress
  • A lack of understanding of the elderly person’s needs
  • Intentional harm

Nursing Home Staff Members as Perpetrators

Nursing home staff members can also be perpetrators of emotional elder abuse due to various factors, including the following:

  • A lack of training
  • High-stress levels
  • Inadequate staffing

Caregivers and Other Residents as Perpetrators

Other caregivers, such as friends or neighbors, can also be perpetrators of emotional elder abuse.

This can be due to a lack of understanding of the elderly person’s needs, stress, or intentional harm.

Treatment and Response to Emotional Trauma

Addressing emotional elder abuse involves a combination of counseling, mental health support, and medical care.

Counseling and Mental Health Support

Counseling and mental health support can benefit victims of emotional elder abuse.

Talking through their feelings with a counselor may offer some relief.

If counseling alone does not help, the elderly individual’s healthcare provider may also prescribe medication for relaxation or help with sleeping.

Medical Care and Medications

Medical care and medications can also be part of the treatment plan for victims of emotional elder abuse.

This can include the following:

  • Regular check-ups to monitor the victim’s physical health
  • Medications to manage any mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety

Steps to Take If You Suspect Elderly Emotional Trauma

If you suspect an elderly person is being emotionally abused, it is vital to take immediate action.

Reporting Emotional Trauma

If you think someone is in immediate danger, call 911 to get help right away. If you suspect your loved one is being emotionally abused, talk with them when alone.

Offer to get them outside help, such as by contacting Adult Protective Services (APS) for them.

You may also call the Eldercare Locator hotline at 1-800-677-1116 to get help in reporting emotional elder abuse.

Legal recourse and support can also be sought if emotional elder abuse is suspected.

This can involve contacting a lawyer who specializes in elder abuse cases.

These lawyers have the unique experience to prove emotional abuse cases and secure compensation.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

Are you or an elderly relative the victim of emotional trauma in a nursing home? Did the negligence of others hurt your loved one?

If so, a personal injury lawyer can provide the legal support you need.

Our legal team can help you navigate the complex legal process, gather evidence, and build a strong case.

Here’s how a personal injury lawyer can assist you:

  • Our lawyers can provide a free consultation to understand your case and advise you on the best legal action.
  • We can investigate the case, gather evidence, and build a solid case to prove negligence.
  • Our legal team can represent you and your adult children in court and negotiate with insurance companies.
  • We can help you secure compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
  • Our law office works on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don’t pay unless they win your case.

If you or a beloved family member is an emotional trauma victim harmed in a nursing home, contact a personal injury lawyer at (888) 424-5757 for a free legal consultation.


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