Mental Abuse

Elderly Woman Staring Out a Window

Nursing home residents have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, mental abuse is a common form of nursing home abuse, and it's heartbreaking.

Mental abuse is not okay anywhere, including in a nursing home – where residents depend on staff to take care of them and preserve their quality of life.

If you, or someone you love, suffered mental abuse while living in a nursing home, contact Edgar Snyder & Associates right away. You may have a nursing home abuse case, and it's time to hold the nursing home responsible for its actions.

Types of Mental Abuse

Mental abuse is sometimes referred to as psychological or emotional abuse. By definition, mental abuse is the intentional infliction of anguish, humiliation, fear, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.

Mental abuse in nursing homes occurs in any of the following ways:

  • Verbal Degradation – This type of mental abuse is common in nursing homes. Although many nursing home employees offer kind words to residents, some do not. These staff members may yell or scream at the resident. They may also make sarcastic remarks or insult the resident about his or her inability to control bodily functions.
  • Verbal Threats – This is more severe than verbal degradation. Verbal threats are often directed toward a particular resident. An example of a verbal threat is when a nursing home employee tells a resident that they will get spanked if they keep soiling their bed or eating sloppily. Another example is telling the resident that they will miss their next meal if they don't eat in a certain way or if they don't finish all of their food.
  • Emotional Manipulation – Many nursing home residents are insecure, because they are dependent on the nursing home for many activities they used to do themselves. It can be very hard for a resident who has lost his or her independence. This can lower a person's self-esteem and put them in danger of being manipulated by a caregiver. For example, a nursing home resident may be fearful of the consequences of asking for a drink of water or a snack. As a result, they may place themselves at a greater risk for dehydration or malnutrition.
  • Emotional Threats – This occurs when a nursing home resident is placed in a position that keeps him or her from speaking out. For example, if one resident sees another resident being abused and the employee does something to keep the witness silent, the witness may feel they will be the next victim if they speak out. Many nursing home residents quickly learn that they are at a disadvantage in the nursing home, so they are easily silenced because they don't want to become the next victim of abuse.
  • Isolation – This occurs when a nursing home staff member gives the resident the silent treatment or isolates the resident from family, friends or regular social activities.

Why Does Mental Abuse Occur in Nursing Homes?

Mental abuse occurs in nursing homes for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Failing to conduct background investigations on employees who have a history of mental abuse
  • Failing to properly supervise staff members
  • Failing to hire a enough supervisory staff
  • Failing to properly train employees on how to spot mental abuse
  • Failing to provide the proper ratio of staff to patients (some caregivers may snap under the pressure and take their stress out on the patients)

If a nursing home fails to do any of the things mentioned above, it can be held liable for negligence.

Symptoms That a Resident May be Suffering From Mental Abuse

The following signs may indicate that your loved one is the victim of mental abuse in a nursing home:

  • Exhibiting feelings of helplessness
  • Being withdrawn or unresponsive or being unwilling to communicate
  • Unusual behavior, like sucking, rocking, or laying in a fetal position
  • Fear of family and friends
  • Any unexplained change in the resident's behavior, particularly any showing of fear, stress, anxiety, or a combative reaction when a certain staff member approaches
  • Being depressed
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