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Posted On February 10, 2020

The Impact of Emotional Abuse on Nursing Home Residents

Emotional abuse in nursing homes can cause chronic health problems and shorten the lifespan of residents. Unlike physical abuse, signs of emotional abuse are difficult to detect. Monitoring individuals in nursing home facilities and taking prompt action when any form of abuse is suspected can help keep residents safe.

Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Emotional abuse affects a significant number of nursing home residents. It is a common problem and the majority of nursing home residents either witness or are themselves victims of abuse. The consequences of emotional abuse are far-reaching. Individuals who suffer emotional abuse can suffer negative health consequences, including diminished responses to treatment.  Further, emotional abuse can serve as a gateway to other forms of abuse including physical, sexual, and financial abuse. Elderly residents with low-social support, dementia, functional impairment, or poor physical health are most vulnerable to all forms of abuse at the hands of their caregivers. 

Residents in nursing home facilities represent a population that is significantly vulnerable to emotional abuse. Many are older residents with failing memories due to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia that weaken bonds to friends and family. Many require significant physical care and require round-the-clock monitoring by caregivers.  Unfortunately, the testimony of people with dementia and other elderly residents is often discounted, challenged, or ignored due to the resident’s health status.  

Recognizing the Signs of Emotional Abuse

Individuals who suffer from emotional abuse in a nursing home facility are likely to withdraw from family and loved ones. They may become quieter than usual. They may stop participating in activities they previously enjoyed. They may be evasive with answers when asked if they are suffering abuse. They may also have dramatic changes in mood or temperament. It is also common for abuse victims to undergo noticeable changes in eating and grooming habits.

Promptly reporting suspected emotional abuse, and if possible, removing the victims from the facility to another location can help keep loved ones safe. In the long-term, failing to protect nursing home residents from further abuse can have serious implications for their physical and psychological health. While emotional abuse won’t kill directly, it can exacerbate existing health conditions, delay recovery from surgical procedures, and ultimately, take away the individual’s will to live. Further, if people are suffering from emotional abuse, there is a good chance they are also at risk of physical, sexual, and financial abuse. 

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