In a previous post, we mentioned that psychological abuse is one of the most prevalent forms of abuse found in nursing homes. According to statistics from the National Center on Elder Abuse, as many as 21 percent of nursing home residents report that they are victims of this kind of harm every year. The ones inflicting this abuse are the ones who have been tasked with their charges’ mental and physical safety, the employees of these homes.
Psychological abuse has many forms. According to the American Psychological Association, simple name calling, intimidation, and administering the silent treatment are all examples of psychological or emotional abuse. If an action is meant to cause an elderly person emotional pain, mental anguish or distress of any kind, it may be deemed psychologically abusive. Examples of this behavior include swearing, yelling, isolating, making disrespectful comments to or insulting a person, and any other words or behaviors that aim to create a power differential between the caregiver and the elderly person. For example, this differential occurs when a caregiver treats an elderly person in their care like a child.
The NCEA states loved ones can look for the signs of psychological abuse to ensure that their loved ones are kept as safe as possible while residents of a nursing home. Symptoms may include emotional agitation, unusual behavior such as rocking, biting and sucking that is usually associated with dementia patients, and being withdrawn or non-communicative. In many instances, elderly home residents will complain to loved ones that they are being mistreated. Those who hear these statements from nursing home residents should take them seriously and immediately file a report with the nursing home. Following this step, they can contact the New York State or local Long-Term Care Ombudsman for information on filing an official complaint.