Caregivers at nursing facilities are supposed to ensure the safety of their patients. They must follow specific safety protocols and preserve the rights guaranteed to their residents under state and federal law. When a nursing home or their employee cause emotional trauma to their residents, they can be held accountable for the resulting damage.
Unfortunately, emotional and mental abuse is common in nursing homes. Unlike physical abuse, it typically doesn’t result in visible symptoms like bruises or cuts. That makes it difficult to spot warning signs. Family members should trust their gut and report abuse when they suspect it. At OnderLaw, LLC, we can advise you of the legal options available to hold the nursing home accountable.
If your loved one was the victim of mental or emotional abuse in a nursing home, OnderLaw, LLC can assist you in pursuing legal action. We’ll hold the party liable for their actions and seek the maximum financial compensation available.
Call OnderLaw, LLC at (314) 963-9000 to schedule your free consultation with one of our St. Louis nursing home abuse attorneys.
What Is Mental and Emotional Nursing Home Abuse?
Some people use the terms “mental abuse” and “emotional abuse” interchangeably. The two terms can be applied to the same type of behavior and lead to similar harm. Given the fact that residents rely on their caregivers, the sad fact is anyone living in a nursing home could become the victim of mental or emotional abuse.
A nurse, support staff, maintenance worker, or another resident could target them. Since perpetrators don’t leave physical injuries as evidence, it can be hard for loved ones to notice when it happens.
Emotional and mental abuse can include verbal and non-verbal actions, including:
When an elderly individual suffers emotional abuse from someone who’s supposed to keep them safe, it can have a severe impact. It affects their mood, so they exhibit behaviors that are unusual or seem like a different personality.
If you suspect your loved one is enduring emotional or mental abuse, look for any of the warning signs below:
- Mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Avoiding eye contact with others
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Fear of specific people
- Trouble sleeping or eating
- Talking less often than usual
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Lack of interest in interacting with anyone
- Sudden weight loss
- Engaging in self-harm
Nursing home emotional abuse is a serious problem. If you don’t know it’s happening, your loved one’s health could deteriorate and result in injury or illness.
They could develop depression or anxiety and exhibit dangerous behaviors. If you see warning signs, it’s important to report it to the nursing home, appropriate authorities, and seek legal advice about the next steps. You may need to remove your loved one from their residence.
Common Reasons for Emotional Abuse in Nursing Homes
Elder abuse can happen to anyone in any facility. Often, inexperienced staff members take out their frustration through emotional and mental abuse.
Sometimes, the nursing home staff’s employers didn’t follow proper hiring practices. Unqualified nurses and caregivers don’t know how to interact with their patients and provide appropriate care. The nursing home could be liable for their negligent hiring.
Nursing homes must perform thorough background checks on prospective employees.
During this process, they must document the following:
- Criminal background check
- Drug screening
- Licenses and certifications
- Prior experience
- Performance at previous nursing homes
- Driving records
- Credit checks
- Confirm college degree
They must ensure the staff they hire has experience interacting with elderly patients and knows how to communicate with them. If they skip any of the steps above, they could hire a staff member with a history of prior abusive behavior.
The nursing home would be liable for the resulting emotional harm because they should have known about the employee’s history and how it could affect the residents.
In a nursing home, every staff member must follow protocols. There are rights afforded to every patient and procedure to ensure their safety and proper care. Administrators should monitor staff behavior and intervene when necessary.
For example, if a manager is aware that a specific nurse and patient don’t get along but assigns the nurse to that patient anyway, the tension could lead to emotional abuse. With proper supervision, management can spot emotional abuse and stop it before significant harm comes to the resident.
Lack of Training
Every care center must train new employees on proper procedures. Although medical care may follow similar guidelines everywhere, each facility has its own way systems.
Each nursing home institutes specific methods for things like administering medication and checking on immobile patients. If new nurses and support staff are unsure of proper protocol, they might treat the residents poorly.
An adequate training program should include:
- Policies and procedures, such as how to handle dementia patients and encouraging social interaction
- How to handle another employee who’s emotionally abusing a patient
- What to do in an emergency situation
- Communication with patients who have mental deficits
Understaffed Nursing Homes
It’s up to nursing home owners and managers to ensure that there are enough nurses to care for all the residents properly. If they put their profits above patient care, the administrators might hire minimal staff to save money on payroll.
Sometimes, nursing homes face a shortage of qualified nurses. When a care center is short-staffed, hard-working employees may be overworked and quit in protest.
Understaffing leads to increased stress and frustration among staff. When they feel overwhelmed, they might cut corners to get the job done. Caregivers who are exhausted and take on more responsibilities than they can handle may take out their feelings on the patients. Over time, they might resort to emotional abuse.
Take Immediate Action If Your Loved One Was the Victim of Emotional or Mental Abuse
Nursing homes are supposed to keep residents safe. Finding out that a nurse is emotionally abusing someone you care about is infuriating. You thought you could trust them, and now you’re faced with a dilemma.
You want to pursue legal action but might not know how to start. Follow the steps below to protect your loved one from additional harm and preserve their rights to financial compensation.
Stay calm. Even if you suspect emotional abuse occurred, don’t confront staff members directly or cause a scene. Try to remain calm and treat everyone with respect. If you say or do something in the heat of the moment, it could affect the outcome of your case. Report the incident to management and request a copy of the incident report.
Speak to witnesses. Talk to management, nurses, and support staff about the emotional abuse that occurred. If anyone witnessed it, write down their names and phone numbers.
Call the authorities. If the situation is urgent, call law enforcement to file a police report. An officer might come to the scene to perform their own investigation into what happened. If your loved one’s immediate safety isn’t at stake, you can also report the situation to Adult Protective Services.
Transfer to a medical facility. Find out from the nursing home what the procedure is for transferring your loved one to a hospital. Discuss your concerns with the doctor so they can perform a thorough evaluation. If they write a referral for psychological evaluation, follow their recommendations.
Provide future care. Research other nursing homes in the area and reach out to people in your community for referrals. Putting your trust in another facility might seem difficult, but it’s important for your loved one to have a safe caregiving environment.
Obtain records. Request a copy of your loved one’s medical records from the nursing home and all medical providers they see. Keep everything associated with the case. The more evidence you collect that proves emotional abuse, the stronger your case will be. Your attorney can help you with this process.
Hire a lawyer. Contact OnderLaw, LLC and one of our St. Louis mental and emotional nursing home abuse attorneys will help you with your case.
Your Loved One Deserves Compensation for the Suffering They Endured
Victims of nursing home emotional abuse incur damages. Damages are the losses associated with an accident or injury.
Your loved one experienced severe emotional harm and deserves financial compensation from the party or parties that caused it. Damages fall under two main categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are the expenses related to the victim’s injuries, such as:
- Medical costs
- Psychological treatment
- Out of pocket expenses
- Prescription medications
Non-economic damages refer to the emotional and mental suffering experienced. Examples include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Psychological effects, such as PTSD or depression
- Diminished quality of life
Why Choose OnderLaw, LLC?
Our St. Louis mental and emotional nursing home abuse attorneys understand that you’re overwhelmed. You want to keep your loved one safe and help them recover from the emotional abuse they endured.
Handling a legal case can seem like a daunting challenge. When you choose us, we’ll take care of everything for you. You can focus on caring for your family member while we seek compensation from the negligent party.
At OnderLaw, LLC, we treat our clients like a priority. We care about you and holding wrongdoers responsible, which is why we provide our services on contingency. You won’t pay us anything unless we win your loved one the compensation they need.
To find out the legal options available after your loved one’s emotional abuse, call us today at (314) 963-9000. We can schedule your free consultation today.