Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

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Emotional abuse in nursing homes is an ongoing problem. Because the abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, it can be hard to detect and stop emotional abuse.

However, for victims, the effects are devastating. When elderly people need a safe place to live, emotional abuse can make their home frightening and intimidating. It can lead to depression and physical decline.

Loved ones should be aware of the possibility of emotional abuse in nursing homes. They should recognize the warning signs of emotional abuse and know how to take action to protect their loved one.

What Is Emotional Abuse in a Nursing Home?

Emotional abuse in a nursing home is behavior likely to cause emotional stress, anguish, or pain. 

Emotional abuse may be verbal. It can also result from physical actions like intentional neglect or preventing the use of physical assistive devices.

What Are Examples of Emotional Abuse in a Nursing Home?

Some examples of emotional abuse in nursing homes may be:

  • Yelling at the resident
  • Threatening to withhold food or medical care
  • Keeping the resident from their family or friends
  • Belittling the resident, insulting them
  • Questioning the mental health of the person without a valid basis
  • Withholding information
  • Not allowing the resident to access personal information, including financial information (may also be financial abuse)
  • Preventing the resident from making their own decisions
  • Falsely accusing the resident of wrongdoing
  • Keeping necessities and assistive devices out of reach
  • Making the person wait too long to get food or medical care
  • Ignoring a person or making attention conditional on certain behaviors

Situations that amount to emotional abuse can vary. The abuse is often subtle, and offenders aren’t going to admit to their behavior.

Signs of Emotional Abuse in the Elderly

Knowing that emotional abuse is a common problem for the elderly, the next question is how to identify emotional abuse when it occurs.

Here are some signs of emotional abuse in the elderly:

  • Feelings of depression and helplessness
  • Self-loathing, being hyper-critical of themselves
  • Ignoring boundaries, not expecting privacy
  • Not asking for personal needs to be met; failing to voice an opinion when appropriate
  • Trying to avoid certain people
  • Refusing to answer questions about daily activities and behavior
  • Physical illness
  • Weight loss, weight gain, sleeping changes
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Loss of independence; asking for help when it shouldn’t be needed
  • Loss of friends; unwillingness to socialize
  • Unexplained hostility, anxiety, or fears

A victim may not even realize that they are the victim of emotional abuse. They may be afraid to speak or even unable to identify the behaviors. Noticing small changes can lead you to ask more questions and investigate whether emotional abuse is occurring.

What to Do If You Suspect Emotional Abuse in a Nursing Home

There are several things that you can do if you suspect emotional abuse in a nursing home. First, do not ignore your intuition. If you think something may be wrong, the resident depends on you to help.

If you suspect that the person is in immediate physical danger, call 911. 

If appropriate, talk to the person about what they are experiencing. Be sure that they can speak freely. Write down your observations, keeping a log over time, so you don’t forget details of what has happened.

Reporting emotional abuse to the nursing home may be effective. They should have an internal complaint system. Be careful if you use this option, and be sure to follow up because you want to make sure the person isn’t retaliated against for making a report. It may be necessary to remove the person from the care facility.

There are several common resources for reporting nursing home abuse in South Carolina. The South Carolina Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) may get involved. Adult Protective Services may also assist in investigating and taking corrective action.

The Bobby Jones Law legal team represents victims of nursing home abuse. If you have concerns about the treatment of a loved one in a care facility, we invite you to talk to our team. If you are a resident concerned about your care in a nursing home, we welcome you to contact our lawyers for a friendly and confidential consultation. Learn more about your situation and your legal rights. Call or message us today.

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