The Emotional Consequences of Nursing Home Abuse

The Emotional Consequences of Nursing Home Abuse

The emotional consequences of nursing home abuse vary and are often significant, sometimes leading to severe mental health problems, a substantial decline in the victim’s physical health, and even death.

The Impact of Nursing Home Abuse

In nursing homes and long-term care facilities, 44 percent of residents report that they have been victims of some type of physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse while receiving care at a facility. Although some signs of abuse show up as bruises, cuts and abrasions, broken bones, internal injuries, and chronic pain, the emotional effects are often less obvious. For nursing home residents who suffer abuse at the hands of their caregivers, common psychological signs include:

  • Changes in Mood or Personality
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and Agitation
  • Eating and Sleeping Disorders
  • Weight Loss
  • Refusal to Take Medications

Nursing home residents who are victims of elder abuse exhibit much higher levels of emotional distress which often lead to increased sadness and long-term depression. Since elderly residents are often unable to protect themselves or fight back against abuse, they often develop a sense of helplessness which leads to severe anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Female residents account for the vast majority of nursing home abuse victims and are twice as likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic experience. However, there are reported cases of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse against male residents as well.

Many nursing home residents have physical disabilities, mental disorders, and communication problems that prevent them from reporting nursing home abuse to authorities or family members. Facility administrators often fail to report abuse because they fear state and federal investigations that could subject them to steep fines and potential closure of the facility. In federally-funded nursing homes, reports of abused patients can jeopardize Medicare and Medicaid funding that keeps a facility operational. Many healthcare workers and staff members fear they will lose their jobs or receive a cut in pay and hours if they report abuse.

In some cases, residents who report abuse receive even more abuse from their assailants because they told someone. There are reports of retaliation from caregivers who ignore call lights, delay meals, withhold pain medications, and neglect basic needs. As a result, thousands of innocent nursing home residents suffer in silence. Combined with existing frailty, compromised immune systems, and serious illnesses and diseases, physical and emotional abuse put elderly nursing home residents at a high risk of premature death.