When we are forced to place loved ones in a nursing home, the last thing we expect or want is for them to be abused or neglected. Sadly, too many nursing home residents do not receive the proper care they deserve and suffer many types of abuse or neglect. A common form of abuse is verbal abuse. Victims of this type of abuse can suffer serious psychological damage and may put up with it in silence for fear of making the abuse even worse.
What Is Verbal Abuse?
When a nursing home staff member makes a statement that makes the resident feel emotional pain, distress or fear, this is considered verbal abuse. It can be especially distressing to the victim because the employee is in a position of authority. Common ways that nursing home staff engage in verbal abuse include:
- Yelling, screaming, or shouting at the resident
- Making rude remarks to the resident
- Insulting the resident or mocking him
- Accusing the resident or wrongfully blaming him of something
- Trivializing the resident’s concerns
- Criticizing the resident
- Threatening the resident with physical harm or punishment
- Talking to the resident like he was a child
- Talking about the resident in a negative fashion with other staff members or residents
Why Does Verbal Abuse Occur in Nursing Homes?
It is important to keep in mind that it is not only nursing home staff that verbally abuse nursing home residents. Sometimes other residents could be the perpetrators of the abuse. Nursing homes become negligent when they fail to recognize this abuse and take steps to stop it.
Even more distressing and common is verbal abuse of the elderly by nursing home staff. While taking care of nursing home residents with psychological and medical problems can be challenging, nursing home staff are expected to do so in a professional and caring manner. However, they engage in verbal abuse for a number of reasons that include:
- Poor staff training. Many nursing homes hire workers at low pay with little or no training. Many nursing homes make matters worse by failing to train their staff in how to deal with serious dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other emotional or physical problems that the residents suffer with. As a result, these workers are often frustrated and unskilled in how to deal with their job challenges.
- Frustration and impatience. Often verbal abuse is caused when a staff member becomes frustrated or impatient, either with the resident he is working with or because of feeling rushed. However, these employees are expected to control their feelings.
- Caregiver burnout. Some caregivers have lost their enjoyment of their jobs or are overworked due to staffing problems. This can cause them to burn out on their job and become frustrated and abusive when interacting with residents.
- Understaffing. Understaffing is a huge problem in nursing homes and can result in another problem—high turnovers. When employees must work too many hours due to staffing shortages, even caring staff can become verbally abusive.
- Employee characteristics. Some workers are drawn to caring for nursing home residents because they like to prey on them or they just have unpleasant, abusive qualities that make them unsuited for this important job. Hiring these workers almost guarantees that verbal abuse of the elderly will occur.
Does Your Loved One Exhibit Signs of Verbal Abuse?
Nursing home residents are more vulnerable than others given their physical and emotional limitations. They can be especially vulnerable when they first move into the home and are adjusting to the dramatic changes in their care and living situation. Verbal abuse can be more challenging to discover because there are no physical signs of it. The damage and symptoms are psychological. Here are signs that your family member may be suffering from verbal abuse:
- Withdrawing from interactions with staff members, residents, and family
- Appearing to be depressed
- Exhibiting low self esteem
- Having personality changes or in his behavior
- Becoming agitated, angry, or aggressive
- Developing insomnia
- Expressing excessive nervousness or fear
- Not speaking as much
- Losing his appetite or developing other issues involving eating
How Does Verbal Abuse Injure Nursing Home Residents?
Verbal abuse can cause elderly residents to suffer long-term emotional and psychological damage. When they are first moving in or otherwise in a fragile emotional state—common for residents—they can be especially susceptible to emotional trauma. When the abuse is severe, residents can suffer physical injuries due to the weakening of their already fragile immune systems from the stress of the abuse.
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of verbal abuse, you need to take steps to protect him. Call Brauns Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your legal options.