If you currently have a family member in a nursing home care facility or are considering doing so, you may have concerns about how they will be treated when you aren’t around. Many nurses are professional, loving, and treat those they take care of like family. It’s crucial for vulnerable or elderly individuals living in a nursing home setting to have individuals who are protective, responsive and caring. Unfortunately, not everyone in the profession will have the same level of compassion, and it is essential to be aware of individuals who seem forceful, dismissive, unkind, or aggressive.
Verbal and emotional abuse can take its toll on mental and emotional health. Family members of nursing home residents may see pre-existing conditions worsen or new ones arise. Sometimes the facility may be understaffed, under-trained, or under-supervised. This can lead to stressful conditions and excessive strain put on the individuals who work there. However, it is still their responsibility to protect the health of the residents living in the nursing home.
If your loved one is being abused at their care facility, contact KBA Attorneys today and our Maryland nursing home emotional abuse lawyers can help you through every step of the lawsuit process.
Types of Emotional Abuse
Nursing home emotional abuse, which is defined as behavior that is meant to intentionally cause psychological distress to another person, can take many forms. Nursing home staff will use various forms of emotional abuse on residents that could lead to harmful effects on a resident’s mental health. In order to be able to identify emotional abuse in nursing homes, families of residents need to be aware of the different types of emotional abuse which include:
- Humiliating and ridiculing a resident
- Blaming the resident for various problems
- Intentionally ignoring their needs
- Terrorizing the resident
- Yelling at or intimidating the resident
As an example, a staff member may have personal problems at home or be unhappy in their job and will choose to take out their frustrations on a resident for whom they are responsible. Thus, they may make derogatory comments if the resident soils their clothing or bed linens, threatens to not let them see family or friends who come to visit, ignore requests for help when the resident needs to get out of bed, or perhaps make them the butt of crude jokes in front of other staff members. Whatever the case may be, any of these actions are considered nursing home emotional abuse and should be reported immediately. If your loved one is suffering from any of these types of abuse, then you should speak with our nursing home emotional abuse lawyers to file an elder emotional abuse lawsuit.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse in nursing homes can be difficult to detect and prove. This is why it is important for families of residents to document instances where they believe elder emotional abuse is occurring and write down specific details of each event. Talking to a loved one and noticing how they react to particular nursing home staff members are also effective ways to identify nursing home abuse.
If you believe your loved one is a victim of nursing home emotional abuse, look for signs such as:
- Unusual changes in behavior. They may begin self-soothing behaviors such as mumbling to themselves, sucking their thumb or rocking.
- A sudden intensifying of dementia symptoms.
- Visibly increased emotional or psychological distress, including seeming disturbed or scared.
- The sudden appearance of low self-esteem, depression, mood swings or anxiety.
- Changes in their personality such as acting more shy or withdrawn.
- Sudden changes in regular patterns or eating, sleeping, socializing or routine.
- Belittling or threatening behavior on the part of the caregiver, including being controlling, demeaning or verbally abusive.
While some of these behaviors may take time to appear, some will do so seemingly overnight. For example, if a loved one who was outgoing and talkative suddenly has no desire for conversation or participation in activities, don’t ignore this. Instead, make your concerns known not only to the facility’s administrators and staff but also to the resident’s primary care doctor and social worker. Families are also advised to contact a reputable Maryland nursing home emotional abuse lawyer who handles elder abuse lawsuits.
How Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes Happens
Staff shortages are very common in nursing homes. As a result, those hired for caregiver positions may not possess the appropriate background or training for these positions. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are so desperate for staff members that they often choose not to perform background checks or contact an applicant’s employment and personal references to verify the accuracy of information. When this happens, there is a higher chance of hiring someone who may have mental health issues of their own. In addition, it’s more likely that people who have mental health issues or perhaps criminal convictions for sexual abuse, domestic violence, or assault and battery will be hired, increasing the danger to a nursing home’s residents.
Elder Emotional Abuse is Under the Radar
Since it is much easier for nursing home staff to commit emotional abuse against residents, this form of abuse often finds itself flying under the radar of a resident’s family and friends. For example, since many nursing home residents may suffer from memory issues or other related conditions, family and friends will often think little about it if their loved one starts acting differently. However, if these changes are sudden and the loved one becomes withdrawn, exhibits unexplained anger, or appears to be frightened or distrustful of staff, nursing home emotional abuse may be occurring.
Lack of Supervision or Training
Along with many nursing homes being understaffed, some also lack adequate supervision and training programs for employees. When this occurs, it becomes much easier for staff to inflict emotional abuse on residents. In many situations, emotional abuse occurs on late-night shifts, since there is usually minimal staff at a facility. Unfortunately, if staff members are not adequately supervised, it becomes very easy for them to behave unethically toward residents. Sadly, since there are few people around to witness the abuse, it can sometimes last for years, having devastating effects on a resident in many ways.
The Results of Emotional Abuse
When a nursing home resident in Maryland is constantly subjected to emotional abuse, the harm caused can be devastating and sometimes irreparable. While some people may believe this form of abuse is not as serious as physical abuse, that is not the case. When this happens, residents are at risk of mental health issues such as:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
These mental health conditions can lead to:
- Eating disorders
- Sleep problems
- Loss of the desire to live
In extreme cases of emotional abuse, residents may engage in behaviors designed to injure themselves, or they may choose to commit suicide as a way to escape the abuse. Elders who experience any type of abuse, regardless of the level of severity, have a 300% increased risk of death compared to those who are not neglected or mistreated. Rather than let a situation get to this point, always know what to look for regarding emotional abuse, and never be afraid to contact a nursing home emotional abuse lawyer for assistance.
Nursing Home Emotional Abuse Cases
- October 2018 – A 76-year-old man who suffers from dementia was abused and humiliated by a group of nursing home employees who inflicted emotional distress on the resident of the Holland Home nursing home. A video was taken by one of the staff members that shows the elderly man holding his diaper as he is yelled at by 6 employees.
- March 2018 – a 68-year-old-man was berated and yelled at after he slipped out of his bed at Universal Healthcare North Raleigh. Instead of helping the resident back into bed, the nursing home staff decided to emotionally abuse him with demeaning comments. One staff member was recorded saying, “You’re supposed to be enjoying your retirement. Instead, look what you are doing, pooping on yourself. Shame on you.”
Reporting Nursing Home Emotional Abuse in Maryland
Along with making your concerns known to the facility’s staff as well as healthcare professionals, it is often best to bring your concerns to those outside the facility. In the case of emotional abuse in nursing homes, this means contacting a local social services agency that maintains an Adult Protective Services division. By making a report to this agency, several procedures will be set in motion.
To begin with, an APS investigator will speak to you, examine any evidence you may have of the abuse, and discuss the options that may be available to you and your loved one. Along with this, APS will conduct an investigation into the nursing home, which will include interviewing staff and administrators. In many cases, these investigations create a snowball effect, bringing to light many more cases of abuse. Finally, if the APS investigator finds sufficient grounds for charges to be filed, the police and the district attorney’s office will also become involved in the matter.
You can get help with reporting incidents and taking further action against negligent facilities by working with a nursing home emotional abuse lawyer in your area.
Speak With an Experienced Maryland Nursing Home Emotional Abuse Lawyer
Families of abused residents may also want to contact an elder emotional abuse lawyer to file a nursing home emotional abuse lawsuit and learn about receiving compensation for the distress or mental health deterioration their loved one may have suffered. By scheduling a consultation with our nursing home abuse lawyers as soon as possible, we will put our experience and knowledge to work for you, ensuring the rights of you and your loved one are always protected.
KBA Attorneys can help make sure you receive appropriate compensation. Take action on this type of abuse and protect your loved one.
- NCEA. “Statistics and Data”, National Center for Elder Abuse, https://ncea.acl.gov/What-We-Do/Research/Statistics-and-Data.aspx. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- NCOA. “Elder Abuse Facts”, National Council of Aging, https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- WHO. “Elder abuse”, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- HelpGuide.org. “Elder Abuse and Neglect”, HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/elder-abuse-and-neglect.htm. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- Brian K. Payne. “Physical and Emotional Abuse of the Elderly”, Arizona State University, https://www.popcenter.org/content/physical-and-emotional-abuse-elderly. Accessed July 17, 2019.
- WebMD. “Elder Abuse: Know the Signs”, WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/elder-abuse-signs#1. Accessed July 17. 2019.