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What Are the Signs of Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Emotional or physiological abuse is any deliberate act of malicious, nonphysical exploitation. This form of abuse includes threats, fear, and manipulation. Emotional abuse may not leave bruises or scars but is harmful to a person’s health and wellbeing.

The Most Common Signs of Emotional Abuse Are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from people and activities
  • Fearful or cowering behavior
  • Reluctance to speak or make eye contact
  • Changes in eating or sleeping that are unrelated to health condition or medication
  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Attempts to harm self or others
  • Any attempt by the facility to prevent the resident from phone calls or visits

Nursing home patients are particularly vulnerable due to their age and health issues. Any abrupt change in a loved one’s emotional state could be a sign of psychological abuse.

What Are Examples of Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse can be verbal, like shouting, scolding, or insulting the victim. It can also be nonverbal, such as denying a patient social interaction. Abusers may threaten physical violence to control, humiliate, or demean the victim. Some abusers torment their victims by placing necessary items – i.e. glasses, walker, or hearing aid – out of reach.

Other examples of emotional abuse are:

  • False accusations against the victim
  • Interference with favorite activities or hobbies
  • Disrupting sleep or meals
  • Making the victim wait for food, water, or medication

Does Emotional Abuse Occur Frequently in Nursing Homes?

Emotional abuse is the third leading type of abuse or neglect in nursing homes. In a 2012 survey conducted by the National Council on Elder Abuse, more than 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to committing physical or emotional abuse or neglect. If untreated, emotional abuse creates depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The emotional stress can worsen physical ailments such as heart disease or hypertension (high blood pressure).

Is it Difficult to Prove Emotional Abuse?

Psychological abuse is a devious method of harming someone that does not involve bruises, fractures, or bleeding. That is why family members and friends should know the signs of emotional abuse. It is also helpful to have a licensed mental health professional check the victim.

How Is Emotional Abuse Reported?

If the situation is immediate and life-threatening (for example if the resident is suicidal), call 9-1-1. In all cases of suspected abuse, the nursing home administrator should be notified in writing. In Florida, the Department of Elder Affairs has a 24/7 abuse telephone hotline. A nursing home abuse law firm can also notify the proper authorities.

Can the Abuser Face Legal Consequences?

Yes, if it is determined that the victim suffered mental, physical, or financial harm, the abuser could be held responsible in a civil lawsuit. Sometimes the state or county files criminal charges. An abuse victim or family member may seek compensation regardless of the presence or absence of criminal charges.

How a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Help

Most people do not know the specifics of nursing home law and are unaware of their legal options. A nursing home abuse lawyer understands the requirements of seeking compensation for nursing home abuse victims. States have statutes of limitations, so it is recommended that concerned family members speak to an attorney as soon as possible. In Florida, victims of nursing home abuse have two years to file a lawsuit from the time of the incident.

Is it Expensive to Hire a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?

Typically, a nursing home abuse lawyer who stands for the plaintiff (the victim or family members) will not charge attorney fees unless and until eligible damages are recovered. The decision to sue a nursing home for recoverable damages should not be taken without careful consideration.

The most common types of damages that could be recovered include:

  • Medical bills related to abuse or neglect
  • Specialists such as a licensed abuse counselor
  • Moving expenses and related costs if the victim switches to a different facility
  • Pain and suffering

What if the Victim Dies Because of the Abuse?

Family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent. It is possible to recover damages for losses such as funeral costs and loss of companionship.

Emotional abuse in a nursing home violates the trust and confidence of senior citizens. It is crucial to recognize the symptoms and to report abuse. To speak with a nursing home abuse law firm about legal options, please call (800) 516-4783 for a free consultation.