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Abuse in Nursing Homes

Unseen Abuse: Uncovering Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

We often think of nursing homes as safe places for our ailing loved ones, but that is not always the case. Nursing home residents are often neglected and abused by overwhelmed staff members.

When you think of abuse, what comes to your mind? Most likely, broken bones, bedsores, bruises, and head trauma. However, there are many other types of abuse that nursing home patients can suffer, and not all are visible. One such example is emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, refers to the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. This abuse is often inflicted by staff members, although other residents may do it as well.

Emotional Abuse Online

With social media used by billions of people around the world, many people feel compelled to take videos of things they think are funny and post them to sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. This has extended to nursing home residents. In the past decade, dozens of nursing home workers have gotten into serious trouble for posting photos and videos of patients in embarrassing situations. For example, one staff member got fired for taking photos of a patient’s genitals and posting them online. There have also been videos of staff members harassing and threatening wheelchair-bound patients. In other cases, photos have been posted of patients who are using the restroom, vomiting, or partially nude.

As you can imagine, these incidents are not only embarrassing for the patients and their family members but also illegal. These situations are all breaches of confidentiality, and those who are involved can be fired or punished in other ways.

Negative Effects of Emotional Abuse

While emotional abuse is not physical in nature, it can still cause a lot of damage, including fear and anxiety. It can even lead to problems with physical health.

Some types of verbal emotional abuse include:

  • Intimidating a patient by using threats

  • Ridiculing or insulting a patient

  • Calling a patient names

  • Making a patient feel guilty

  • Yelling or shouting at a patient

Some types of nonverbal emotional abuse include:

  • Ignoring a patient

  • Giving a patient the silent treatment

  • Isolating a patient from friends or family

  • Preventing a patient from participating in social activities

  • Terrorizing the patient

  • Not giving a patient food or water

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse does not leave physical harm, so it can be hard to tell if a loved one has been emotionally abused in a nursing home. Some victims become more timid, while others become more aggressive. In general, here are some signs to look for:

  • Depression and persistent sadness

  • Withdrawal and isolation from friends and family

  • Refusal to interact with others

  • Sudden change in personality or behavior

  • Agitation

  • Excessive fear, nervousness, or anxiety

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Shaking and tremors

  • Unusual behavior such as sucking, biting, or rocking

As the emotional abuse persists and worsens, it can manifest into issues that can affect physical help. Some changes to look for in your loved one include:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lack of sleep or insomnia

  • Sudden weight loss

  • Refusal to eat or take medications

  • Decreased immune system and Increased vulnerability to infection

Risk Factors for Emotional Abuse

Anyone in a nursing home can be a victim of emotional abuse. However, some people are more susceptible to it. For example, if the nursing home staff member suffers from depression or struggles with drug addiction, the risk of inflicting abuse is higher. A staff member who has less medical training or is overwhelmed from working in an understaffed nursing home may also be more likely to inflict abuse on a patient.

The age and health of the nursing home patient can also increase the risk of emotional abuse. A patient who is in poor health and requires more care is more likely to be abused. Also, the older the patient is, the higher the risk of abuse. A patient who suffers from severe memory impairment or cognitive problems is also more likely to be abused since they may not be able to remember what happened.

Rights of Nursing Home Residents

Nursing home residents and their families need to understand that they have legal rights. According to the federal Nursing Home Bill of Rights, nursing home residents are entitled to:

  • Freedom from abuse and neglect.

  • Freedom from physical restraints.

  • Privacy

  • Make their own decisions

  • Communicate freely

  • Accommodation of medical, physical, or psychological needs

  • Be treated with dignity

What Can Be Done?

You do not have to let your loved one suffer from emotional abuse. Nursing home patients who have been emotionally abused by a nursing home staff member can file a lawsuit to recover monetary damages. If a person is mentally incapacitated and unable to file a lawsuit, a loved one can sue on their behalf.

There are two legal bases for supporting a civil cause of action:

  • Breach of contract. A nursing home and a patient have a contract in place in which the nursing home agrees to provide a certain level of care in exchange for a fee. When the nursing home does not provide this level of care, the patient or their family may have the right to sue for breach of contract since they failed to do what was promised.

  • Violation of law. Nursing homes must comply with state and federal laws that establish the minimum standards for patient care. Failing to meet the minimum care standard gives nursing home residents the right to sue the facility for damages.

Contact Newman Law Group Today

Tragically, emotional abuse has become extremely prevalent in nursing homes, both in verbal and non-verbal manners. These harms cannot be seen, making it hard to prove nursing home abuse.

If your loved one has been abused in a nursing home, count on the skilled attorneys at Newman Law Group, LLP, to help. We will aggressively pursue justice for you and your loved ones. Call (916) 932-0397 to schedule a consultation with our office today.