Many forms of nursing home neglect and abuse, such as bed sores or personal injury, are visible and obvious. However, psychological or emotional abuse is a serious form of neglect that is not visible and may be difficult to detect. This abuse is comprised of the infliction of mental suffering, anger, pain or distress on residents that causes harm on how that person feels or thinks. It is caused by words, action or inaction.
Common types of this abuse include threating physical harm, unnecessary yelling or making a resident's decision against their will through verbal intimidation. Threats of institutionalization or removing privileges is another example. Victims are also told that they deserve to be treated poorly, are unloved or should have their privileges withdrawn.
Abuse is also comprised of threats of isolation or even actually isolating a resident. Perpetrators also refuse to speak with or listen to victims. They may engage in "baby talk" and merely talk at a resident instead of speaking with them.
There are warning signs of emotional abuse. Victims may be agitated or upset. They sometimes withdraw from social situations or refuse to speak to or respond to other people. Residents may share stories about being verbally or physically mistreated.
Other concerning behavior incudes victims engaging in thumb sucking, nail biting, rocking back and forth or displaying other uncharacteristic behavior. Residents may also have inexplicable personality changes or not act as themselves. There may also be inexplicable changes with their eating or sleeping habits. Another obvious sign is where there are reports of specific incidents. These include a staff member isolating or coercing a resident.
A physician or first responder can provide immediate medical assistance to victims suffering abuse. Families may also want to contact an attorney to help prevent further harm to residents, seek compensation and take other legal action against facilities that allow this abuse.
Source: Baltimore Post-Examiner, "Emotional abuse in nursing homes," David Jackson, May 7, 2018