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Signs of psychological abuse in nursing home residents


Any form of abuse towards residents in nursing homes is unacceptable. After all, you put your trust into nursing home staff to care and provide for your loved one. But when caregivers don’t treat your loved one with the respect and kindness they need and deserve, it can be heartbreaking and frustrating.

What is psychological abuse?

Unfortunately, elder abuse often goes underreported. For every case reported, five go unreported. One type that can slip too easily beneath the radar is psychological abuse. Many abusive caregivers get away with psychological abuse because it doesn’t usually show obvious physical or external markings.

Rather, psychological abuse entails any of the following and more:

  • Yelling at or berating a patient
  • Making offensive or insulting remarks
  • Isolating or purposefully ignoring a patient
  • Threatening or manipulating a patient

What to look out for

Because of the nature of psychological abuse, victims rarely speak up. Other times, your loved one’s age might prevent them from understanding their abuse and communicating it to you.

Other than catching an abusive caregiver in the act, it can be difficult to tell when your loved one suffers from abuse. However, there are signs you can look for, including:

  • Depression and anxiety — If you’ve noticed a gradual increase of depression or anxiety in your loved one, it may be an indicator that something is wrong.
  • Change in behavior — Your loved one may exhibit different behaviors than they normally would. Aggression towards others is one common change in behavior.
  • Withdrawal — A once-sociable person might isolate themselves from others, either intentionally or against their will.
  • Decline in health — Psychological abuse may make your loved one incapable of eating, sleeping or taking their medications. This can result in weight loss and more serious health complications.

Of course, these signs may be due to other factors, such as natural aging or declining health problems such as dementia. However, don’t discount the possibilities behind your loved one’s sufferings. If an abusive caregiver is at the source, don’t hesitate to take action and hold them responsible for their mistreatment.