Much of the focus on nursing home abuse centers on physical and sexual abuse. However, emotional abuse poses just as much of a problem as physical abuse but can be more difficult to detect. Emotional or psychological abuse can have a devastating impact on the health of the nursing home resident who becomes the target of abuse.
Unfortunately, emotional abuse often goes unnoticed, even when the victim begins to display outward signs of distress or social withdrawal. With enough time, emotional abuse such as taunting, intimidation, humiliation, or threats of physical violence can cause psychological harm to a victim.
If your family has a loved one who you suspect has been victimized by emotional abuse or any types of abuse in a nursing home, turn to Joye Law Firm for assistance. For more than 50 years, our attorneys have been fighting to protect the rights of clients throughout South Carolina. We stand up for people who have been injured by the negligent, reckless, or deliberate actions of others. We seek to hold wrongdoers accountable and pursue justice and financial compensation on behalf of those who have been harmed.
Our South Carolina nursing home abuse attorneys have the experience and commitment to investigate difficult nursing home abuse cases. Our attorneys have been repeatedly recognized for their legal knowledge and excellence in providing legal representation to clients. While we can never guarantee a specific outcome in a case, we take pride in our track record of successful results obtained on behalf of our clients.
Call us at (877) 941-1019 or contact us online for a free case evaluation. We’ll discuss your rights and options. Our goal is to help you protect your loved one and hold the nursing home and other responsible parties accountable for the emotional abuse your loved one has suffered.
Non-Physical Abuse Is Still Abuse
When nursing home abuse is discussed, most people think about physical abuse, such as punching, pushing, hitting, or kicking. People may not immediately think about emotional abuse as a type of injury that occurs in nursing homes. Some may even think of emotional abuse as a less serious form of abuse, since being taunted, yelled at, humiliated, or belittled does not cause the same kind of injury that physical or sexual assault can.
However, the emotional abuse of a nursing home resident is still abuse. Emotional abuse can have just as devastating an impact on an abuse victim’s life as physical abuse. The harm to an elderly person’s mental health caused by emotional abuse can lead to physical effects as well.
Because the signs of emotional abuse are less visible than scars, bruises, and other injuries caused by physical abuse, emotional abuse often goes undetected even by family members and loved ones.
Understanding Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Nursing home residents depend on nursing home staff to help with basic needs such as eating, bathing, taking medications, getting dressed, and attending activities. We entrust nursing home staff to provide attentive and respectful care to our loved ones. Emotional abuse involves any behavior from a nursing home staffer or caregiver that results in a resident feeling humiliated, threatened, isolated, and/or controlled and experiencing anguish, mental distress, or fear.
Staffers or caregivers may engage in emotional abuse of a nursing home resident for various reasons, such as to punish a nursing home resident for perceived difficulties in their care.
Emotional abuse might be committed by only one staff member or by several staffers at a nursing home facility. This may represent a pervasive problem throughout an entire nursing home staff. A nursing home may be understaffed, putting stress on nursing home workers who take out their frustrations on elderly residents by taunting them or verbally abusing them.
Likewise, nursing home residents could be targets of abuse by other residents. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to do everything possible to identify, correct and prevent future harm.
Examples of Emotional Abuse
Examples of conduct that can constitute emotional abuse of a resident include:
- Insults and name-calling
- Humiliating, shaming, or belittling
- Treating a resident like a child
- Yelling or cursing
- Talking about a resident in a demeaning way to others
- Embarrassing a resident in front of others
- Ignoring a resident or giving them the cold shoulder
- Withholding access to the telephone or other communication devices
- Isolating a resident from family and friends
- Refusing to allow a resident to participate in social activities
- Refusing or ignoring requests for assistance
- Restricting food, water, and medication
- Taking away canes, walkers, glasses, or other property
- Threatening physical or sexual abuse
Symptoms & Warning Signs of Emotional Elder Abuse
The emotional abuse of an elderly person in a nursing home can prove difficult to identify. Emotional abuse may take the form of trying to isolate the abuse victim from friends and family, making it difficult for loved ones to spot the issue. Many of the symptoms and warning signs of emotional abuse aren’t physical or visible in nature. Signs that can be seen often are attributed to other conditions, such as dementia.
If you and your family have a loved one residing in a nursing home, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of possible emotional abuse in elderly individuals.
Possible emotional abuse in a nursing home may include:
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities
- Anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation
- Unusual and abrupt changes in behavior, including crying or agitation
- Soothing behaviors, such as mumbling, rocking, rubbing, or thumb-sucking
- Fear of being left alone
- Fear in the presence of certain nursing home staff or residents
- Unwillingness to talk in the presence of certain staff members
- Loss of appetite
- Engaging in self-neglect, such as not eating, hydrating, taking medication, or grooming
Family members and friends of nursing home residents should carefully consider complaints of mistreatment from the resident. A resident may describe being on the receiving end of behaviors by nursing home staffers that qualify as emotional abuse.
Reporting Emotional Elder Abuse
If you suspect that a loved one in a nursing home is suffering from emotional abuse, you can take steps to report your suspicions and protect your loved one from further harm.
The first step in reporting emotional abuse involves taking your concerns to the nursing home management. In many cases, abuse is conducted without the knowledge of management. When the abuse involved a staff member, the nursing home operators can take steps to address problems by terminating abusive employees, conducting staff retraining, and providing support and services to your loved one.
If reporting your concerns directly to the nursing home management fails to address the issue, you can report the problem to state and local authorities. In South Carolina, suspected emotional abuse in a nursing home can be reported to the Long Term Care Ombudsman in the South Carolina Department on Aging. The ombudsman serves as an advocate for nursing home residents and can help residents and their families pursue grievances for abuse and neglect in a nursing home.
Reports of suspected emotional abuse in nursing homes can also be made to the South Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging. Complaints can also be filed with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which forwards such reports to the Office on Aging. The state may investigate reports of abuse and take appropriate enforcement actions in response to substantiated reports.
If you have brought the issue to the attention of nursing home management and suspect the abuse is continuing, contact our nursing home abuse attorneys at Joye Law Firm for assistance. We can investigate the situation, take steps to protect your loved one, and hold the nursing home management accountable.
If you suspect that a loved one is facing imminent risk of physical harm, you should contact local law enforcement to intervene to protect your loved one’s health and safety.
Psychological Abuse Can Be Devastating
Emotional abuse can have a devastating impact on a nursing home resident. Nursing home residents can be particularly vulnerable to emotional abuse due to the ease with which a resident may be isolated from family and friends (which itself constitutes a form of emotional abuse).
Because emotional abuse often leaves no physical signs, many nursing home employees and even family members of nursing home residents may not realize that abuse is occurring unless they witness such acts.
Finally, many examples of behaviors that constitute emotional abuse can even lead to physical injury. For example, withholding food, water, or medication can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, or the advancement of conditions being treated by medication. Refusing to provide assistance or withholding mobility equipment or eyeglasses may result in a resident injuring themselves in a fall or other accident.
Let an Attorney Help You
If you have a family member or loved one who you believe has been the victim of emotional abuse inflicted at a nursing home in South Carolina, let our S.C. nursing home abuse attorneys help you and your family pursue compensation and justice for the harm that your loved one has suffered.
Reach out to us online or give us a call at (877) 941-1019 for a free, confidential consultation. We have office locations across South Carolina in Charleston, Summerville, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Clinton to serve you and your family. Don’t let the mistreatment of your loved one continue any longer. Call us right away for help.