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Spotting emotional abuse in nursing homes

NewsNursing Home Neglect   August 29, 2018

Emotional abuse is often harder to spot than physical abuse — which is why it can be a serious problem for nursing home residents.

These residents have to rely on staff members, including aides and nurses, for most of their daily needs. That dependency makes the elderly susceptible to various forms of abuse. Psychological mistreatment can involve:

  • Intimidation through yelling, cursing and threats
  • Deliberate humiliation or ridicule
  • Isolation from others, including friends and family members
  • Name calling, blaming and scapegoating
  • Menacing or terrorizing

Sometimes caregivers are motivated by nothing more than their desire for control or power over another person. The elderly and infirm make good targets because they can’t easily fight back.

In some cases, aides and nurses are simply taking their job frustrations out on the nearest people available. Other times, the aide or nurse may have ulterior motives — like bullying the senior into giving up valuables or money in order to obtain better treatment.

How can you spot the signs of emotional abuse? Start asking questions and look closely into what’s happening if your loved one:

  • Is supposedly unable to receive visitors. That may be a deliberate attempt to keep you away and isolate the resident.
  • Exhibits fearful behavior around a specific caregiver or caregivers, whispers when talking about the staff or constantly checks to see who is around before saying anything.
  • Begins to exhibit nervous behavior, including rocking, nail-biting, mumbling and thumb sucking.
  • Experiences unexplained weight loss that could be from anxiety.

The best way you can protect a family member from nursing home abuse it to be present as often as possible. Make it a point to stop in from time to time — unannounced. If you experience resistance from the nursing home staff about your visits, it is time to be concerned.