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How to Spot Signs of Psychological Abuse in Nursing Homes

If you have a loved one or an elderly family member currently residing in one of Georgia’s nursing homes, there is plenty that you can do to check and monitor to make sure your loved one is not being physically abused. However, monitoring for emotional or psychological abuse is always as straightforward.

Recently, two nursing aides in a nursing home were fired after they posted a video on Snapchat taunting a 91-year-old resident with dementia who had a fear of hospital gowns.  The video shows the two aides mocking the woman as they pushed a hospital gown towards her, even as she resisted their attempts to do so. The video was posted on Snapchat, and was brought to the attention of the resident’s family members. They brought it to the attention of the nursing home, which suspended the aides, but promptly put them back on work barely 6 days later, citing insufficient evidence of any abuse.

Rightfully, the family has gone ahead and filed a lawsuit against the nursing home for damages. They claim that the psychological trauma has harmed their loved one, and that her mental condition has actually regressed.

Psychological abuse of a resident in a nursing home can take a number of forms. Seniors at a facility may suffer from intimidation and threats. They may be made fun of or mocked, as happened in this case. In some cases, residents may be isolated, or may be prevented from participating in their social activities with other residents. This can cause psychological trauma since such social interaction is vital to a senior’s health and well-being. Screaming, yelling, shouting obscenities, and terrorizing with gestures are all forms of abuse that are designed to frighten the resident, and often leave the resident with severe mental trauma.

In the above recent news case, the family members found out about the abuse because of the video that was posted on social media. In many cases, however, seniors are simply unable to tell their family members about the emotional abuse they are suffering.  And you shouldn’t hold your breath that the aides looking after your loved one will be foolish enough to post their wrongful acts online. Instead, keep an eye out for signs of emotional and psychological trauma, such as:

Does your loved one seem depressed or withdrawn without explanation?

Does he or she seem particularly scared of certain staff members?

Does he or she refuse to speak to others?

Does he or she show unexplained behaviors like mumbling, sucking or rocking?

Has he or she had a loss of appetite? Fear and stress can take a toll on the appetite.

If you see any of these signs, do not ignore them. Bring them to the attention of the nursing home staff. If you do not receive a satisfactory explanation, bring these issues to the attention of the management. Remember, older residents are at a higher risk of such abuse since their mental condition often leaves them incapable of telling family members about the abuse. They are more vulnerable, and therefore, at a greater risk.

If you suspect that your loved one has been abused at a nursing home, speak to a  nursing home abuse lawyer and discuss your best steps forward. Your first priority should be to make sure that your loved one is safe. Removing your loved one from the facility would be a start. Talk to a lawyer at our firm about what else you can do to ensure that your loved one’s rights are protected.