It is estimated that over 60% of elderly people have experienced some form of emotional abuse in a nursing home, which is concerning. Emotional abuse in nursing homes can take many forms. For instance, residents may be bullied, insulted, or ignored by caregivers, causing feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and loss of autonomy. Additionally, the staff can isolate them from others, allowing them little to no social interaction with their peers. This is not just unethical but also a violation of their human rights.

Understanding and preventing emotional abuse cannot be stressed enough. The first step is advocacy, ensuring that nursing homes and caregivers understand this is a significant issue and should not be taken lightly. Also, advocate for legislation that punishes this type of abuse; this is a critical step that will send a message to caregivers, nursing homes, and society in general that these forms of abuse will not be tolerated.


What is emotional abuse?


Emotional abuse occurs when a caregiver, family member, fellow resident, or other party intentionally inflicts psychological pain. Emotional abuse may be verbal, nonverbal in nature, or committed through acts of omission. Some common methods of emotional abuse include:

  • Insults and name-calling
  • Berating, threatening, and other harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Humiliation
  • Isolation from peers or friends and family
  • Preventing victims from regular activities
  • Giving the silent treatment
  • Treating the resident as a child


One of the most common types of emotional abuse, according to the National Elder Mistreatment Study, is actively ignoring the person. In many cases, this behavior also includes neglect. Failing to give a resident the attention they need for personal hygiene or healthcare tasks can lead to both emotional and physical pain for the senior. For example, when a caregiver does not regularly attend to an immobile resident, the senior may develop bedsores and other complications. Not only is the senior psychologically hurt because they feel abandoned, but they also suffer painful physical injuries as well.


What are some of the signs of emotional abuse in a nursing home?


Signs of emotional abuse are often difficult to spot, especially when your loved one suffers from dementia or is nonverbal. Investigate further if the senior is:

  • Unusually agitated or inconsolable
  • Withdrawing or becoming uncharacteristically non-communicative
  • Displaying unusual or new self-soothing behaviors such as biting, rocking, and sucking
  • Dreading a particular caregiver
  • Reporting they have suffered verbal or emotional abuse

What do I do if I suspect a staff member is emotionally abusing my loved one or another resident?


If you witness any of the above signs of elder abuse or suspect that your loved one is suffering from abuse, you should take action as soon as possible to provide relief to your loved one. Contacting nursing home management to address the situation or assist, contacting your local elder care ombudsman, or transferring your family member to another facility are all options, depending on the situation’s specifics.

If you feel the senior may be in immediate danger of physical harm or need medical care, do not hesitate to call 911 for assistance.


Do I need to enlist the help of an attorney?


Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault work to protect seniors from abusers and to help them recover damages related to emotional abuse in a nursing home. If you believe your aging loved one was the victim of any type of nursing home abuse in Ohio or southeast Michigan, our nursing home abuse attorneys can help you understand the laws that protect your loved one’s welfare and secure the compensation she deserves.

Contact us today at 419-843-6663 for an appointment.