Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes: What to Know

By Peter DePaolis

You made the difficult decision to move a family member into a nursing home because you knew it was best for their safety. While the decision is never easy, it is the right choice for many families to put a loved one into a nursing home. The specialized care your loved one receives in a nursing home ensures their health.

You trust in that facility to provide your loved one with the care and attention they need. You assume that the caregivers look out for their emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Sadly, too many of these facilities are operating well below the standard of care. Some are outright abusing their patients.

Per the National Council on Aging (NCOA), one out of 10 adults over the age of 60 suffers a form of elder abuse. One of those areas least explored is emotional abuse. Physical abuse is not a necessary requirement of emotional abuse. Therefore, it is important that family members know what emotional abuse is, how it happens, and recognize the signs so that they can act.

Emotional Abuse is Not the Same as Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse and emotional abuse are terms that are often used interchangeably – but they are not the same. Psychological abuse is similar to emotional abuse in that the victim no longer feels like they have self-worth, and lives in fear.

From there, you will see some differences.

  • Emotional Abuse–Emotional abuse attacks the victim’s ability to love themselves, have confidence in themselves, and they eventually start to doubt that anyone will care for them.
  • Psychological Abuse–Targets the victim’s trust and manipulates the victim into believing something specific.

These types of abuse can happen simultaneously, and in conjunction with sexual and physical abuse.

Examples of Emotional Abuse that Occurs in a Nursing Home

  • Ignoring the needs of the victim, including the need for social interaction and physical care
  • Humiliating the victim alone or in front of others in the nursing home
  • Threatening with harm or death if they do not comply
  • Insulting the victim or mocking them
  • Isolating the victim from friends, family, and others in the nursing home facility
  • Telling the victim that no one loves them and no one will care for them

Recognizing the Symptoms of Emotional Abuse

The only way to protect your loved one is to know the signs of emotional abuse and step in quickly. Emotional abuse does not have bruises or scars like physical abuse, which is why it is often missed by family members.

While there may be no physical indicators, there are emotional indicators that tell you something is wrong with your loved one. Look for these, and if you notice them, contact the authorities immediately.

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain without reason.
  • Personality changes that are sudden and unexpected.
  • Inflicting wounds on themselves, including cutting or purposely falling.
  • Noticeable changes in their overall health.

Work with an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse, they may suffer a significant amount of financial damages in addition to the emotional abuse. Through a claim, you can receive compensation for your loved one’s costs and suffering. Contact us for a consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.