The elderly population is one of the most vulnerable groups in American society, and they’re often victims of abuse by the very people who are supposed to care for them. Mental elder abuse is a common type of abuse that can occur in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but one that gets little coverage.
Mental and emotional elder abuse can have serious consequences for the victim. If you suspect that your loved one is being mentally abused in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, it’s important to take action. Here’s what to know and how to get legal help if you suspect your elderly loved one has been mentally abused in a nursing home setting.
Defining Mental Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can be a single or repeated act of mental, physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse that occurs inside of a relationship where the perpetrator is in a position of trust or care over the victim.
Mental abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, is a type of elder abuse that specifically refers to the intentional infliction of mental or emotional anguish on an older adult.
Signs of Mental Abuse Against Elders
This type of abuse can be difficult to identify because it often occurs in the absence of physical evidence. However, some signs may indicate that an elderly individual is being mentally or emotionally harmed in a nursing home. These include:
● Withdrawal from usual activities or social interactions
● A sudden change in mood or personality
● Sudden outbursts of anger or agitation
● Difficulty sleeping
● Loss of appetite
● Weight loss
● Self-harming behaviors such as hair-pulling or skin picking
Who’s At Risk?
Although mental elder abuse can happen to anyone, certain factors can make someone more vulnerable to this type of abuse. These include:
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may be more susceptible to mental elder abuse because they may have difficulty communicating what is happening to them. They may also be more reliant on their caregivers for help with basic needs and activities of daily living.
- Elders who live alone or who do not have regular contact with family and friends are at increased risk for all types of elder abuse. This is because they may be more dependent on their caregivers and less likely to have someone to confide in about what is happening to them.
- Physical frailty. Older adults who are physically frail or have limited mobility may be more vulnerable to mental elder abuse because they may be unable to defend themselves against their abuser.
Causes of Mental Abuse In Nursing Homes
One of the leading causes of mental abuse in nursing homes is improper staff training. Oftentimes, nursing home staff members are not adequately trained to deal with the unique needs of elderly residents, which can lead to frustration and anger on the part of the staff.
Another common cause of mental abuse in nursing homes is high resident-to-staff ratios. When there are too few staff members to care for the number of residents, it can be difficult for the staff to provide quality care. This can lead to shortcuts being taken, such as not providing adequate attention or not taking the time to address residents’ concerns.
Nursing homes are also frequently underfunded and do not have enough resources to properly care for their residents, resulting in a lack of activities and programming. Residents can begin to feel bored and isolated, and they may not be able to get adequate mental stimulation from their environment.
What To Do If You Think Your Loved One Is Being Mentally Abused
If you think your loved one is being mentally abused in their nursing home, the first step is to talk to the staff. It’s important to remember that not all cases of mental abuse are intentional. Sometimes, staff members may not be aware that their words or actions are causing harm.
Other times, they may be overwhelmed and stressed, which can lead to them taking out their frustrations on residents. While this is no excuse, understanding how your loved one came to be harmed is important, particularly if you later decide to file a case against them.
Report the Nursing Home
If talking to the staff doesn’t resolve the issue, or if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, you can report the nursing home to the Long-term Care Ombudsman in your state. This is especially important if the nursing home denies wrongdoing, acts subversive or seems resistant to improving your loved one’s care.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Another option is to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. They can help you investigate what’s going on and take legal action if necessary. This may be particularly helpful if your loved one is being abused both mentally and in some other way.
Call Mazow | McCullough, PC for a consultation to discuss the merits of your case in detail by dialing our Salem, MA office at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.