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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Understanding Nursing Home Abuse: What Is Psychological Abuse in a Nursing Home?

When an elderly person lives in a nursing home or assisted living facilities, their family members should be able to know they are safe and well cared for, but sadly, it is not always the case.

Psychological emotional elder abuse in nursing homes is more common than people may think. People in a position of trust and care are taking advantage of and mistreating those they are meant to keep safe- and legal action must be taken.

First, what is psychological abuse, and how does it impact nursing home residents and their families?

An Introduction to Elder Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

An Introduction to Elder Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

There are thousands of cases of abuse in nursing homes reported in the US annually- and thousands more that likely go unnoticed.

Because many residents suffer from mental or physical impairments, they are especially vulnerable- making it easier for someone to commit emotional or other abuse.

Although many cases involve the abuse of a resident from a caretaker or staff member, there are also a significant number of resident-on-resident abuse cases in the US.

There are three main categories of nursing home resident abuse:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse covers several categories- all of which involve the actual physical harm of a person caused by someone else. In nursing homes, this includes:

  • Physical assault

  • Neglect causing bodily harm (lack of physical care or proper medical treatments)

  • Sexual assault

All-in-all, physical nursing home abuse accounts for just over half of all cases.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse - mental or emotional trauma- covers around one-quarter of abuse cases in nursing homes.

Other Abuse

Financial abuse and gross neglect make us the remainder.

What Is Psychological Abuse?

Psychological or emotional abuse is the infliction of trauma on another through non-physical means.

Verbal abuse includes insults, threats, and aggressive (non-physical) behavior, and non-verbal abuse could be silent treatment, isolating a person, or going out of one's way to make life difficult for them.

Psychological and Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Shockingly, elder psychological abuse is common in nursing homes. According to a study by the World Health Organization, almost one-third of nursing home staff members said they had psychologically or emotionally abused an elderly individual in their care in some way.

Some examples of emotional abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Shouting at residents

  • Patient ridiculing (insulting or mocking)

  • Publicly or privately shaming or demeaning

  • Ignoring or belittling requests

  • Threatening the patient with physical or sexual abuse

  • Forcing social isolation from other residents and family members

  • Putting water, food, and medications out of reach

  • Taking away personal belongings such as walkers and wheelchairs

  • Accusing the residents of things they did not do

These are only some examples- anything that causes mental and emotional upset or trauma is considered psychological abuse in nursing homes.

What Are the Signs of Nursing Homes Emotional Abuse?

Nursing home residents suffering psychological or emotional abuse may present the following symptoms.

  • Anxiety: They may seem anxious when the caregiver enters the room or when you go to leave.

  • Isolation: An emotionally abused elderly person may isolate themself or be purposely isolated from others- expressing loneliness or a reluctance to interact.

  • Depression: Nursing home residents experiencing psychological abuse could suffer mentally- feeling sad and depressed. It could change their behavior when you see them.

  • Deteriorated health: If elderly residents start to deteriorate for no explainable physical health reason, it could be a sign of psychological trauma.

  • Nervousness: Unusual behavior such as fear or nervousness can be symptoms of emotional abuse.

  • Sudden weight loss: Refusal to eat is a common sign that something is wrong.

As well as the symptoms shown in the victim, there are some red flags to look out for that could suggest mental abuse of the elderly. Emotional elder abuse warning signs include:

  • Not being allowed to see the resident when relatives go to visit

  • Evasive or hostile reactions to simple questions

  • Unusual behavior from caregivers- such as strange comments, rude interactions with other residents, or anything that makes the family member feel uncomfortable

  • Lack of concern or disingenuous empathy

  • Staff members looking tired or stressed

Reporting Nursing Home Elder Emotional Abuse

The first thing a person should do if they suspect a case of elderly emotional abuse is contact adult protective services. In extreme cases, the police can be brought in as well. Shuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can answer questions like "How do you prove nursing home abuse in Indiana?"

A government-appointed mental health care provider and caregiver will be appointed to look after the person believed to be suffering abuse- and to find out the details of what is happening.

They should investigate the conditions and circumstances, speak to the victim about what has happened, and report the person or persons who allegedly commit emotional elder abuse.

It is also vital to contact a nursing home neglect attorney in Indianapolis to help with the legal side of things. Making claims against nursing homes is complex and not rarely straightforward- so having experienced and knowledgeable legal guidance from the very beginning is a must.

Why Choose Shuerger Shunnarah?

Why Choose Shuerger Shunnarah?

Shuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys go to war for elder emotional abuse victims and their family members. As leading personal injury lawyers, they are passionate and dedicated to fighting for psychologically abused victims experiencing emotional pain and suffering. They can provide insight on what the average nursing home abuse settlement in Indiana is.

Years of experience specializing in elder mistreatment law gives this legal team a head start when going up against fortified nursing home insurance companies and legal defense teams.

They leave no stone unturned when fighting to expose abuse in nursing homes and win justice and compensation for patient emotional harm.


In short, psychological nursing home abuse is when one person inflicts trauma onto another using non-physical methods- usually a caregiver to a patient. It often involves an abuse of power and can be verbal or nonverbal.

An elderly person or nursing home resident who is being emotionally abused can claim compensation for their pain and suffering.

Purposefully inflicting emotional trauma on anyone is unforgivable- but when the person is vulnerable- and the abusers are the ones who are meant to care for them, it only increases the devastation.

Elder abuse victims and their family members should report any suspicions of psychological and emotional abuse to the relevant authorities- then contact a nursing home neglect attorney to help them fight the battle legally.

Contact Shuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys to arrange a free consultation and case evaluation- and don't let psychological elder abuse go unanswered.


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