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Psychological abuse is far too common in nursing homes

Thinking of abuse in nursing homes might conjure images of bruises and other signs of physical abuse. It might shock you to learn that physical abuse isn't the most common type of abuse in nursing homes. Psychological abuse accounts for 54.1 percent of all abuse claims in nursing homes in this country.

Psychological abuse is particularly troubling because it doesn't have any outward signs that can lead a person to definitively conclude that a nursing home resident has been abused. The signs of psychological abuse are usually only evident if you play close attention to how the nursing home resident behaves. This means that if you aren't familiar with a person's normal mannerisms, you might mistake the signs of psychological abuse for shyness or other normal behaviors.

One particularly troubling form of psychological neglect is failing to provide the resident with suitable outlets for socialization. Many nursing home residents don't have daily visitors. This means that they count on employees and other residents for normal socialization. If a nursing home doesn't provide residents with the chance to socialize, the residents can become depressed and suffer from conditions related to that depression.

Other types of psychological negligence are actually abuse. Mental and verbal abuse of residents are common in some nursing homes. Residents might be scolded harshly like they are unruly children. They might be called names or berated. In some cases, these actions could be classified as harassment.

Sadly, it is easy to overlook the signs of psychological abuse in nursing homes because the signs can mimic those of dementia and other common conditions associated with elderly people. When you consider how much this type of abuse can damage an elderly person, you should see why it is important to pay attention for the signs and take action if you think something is amiss.

Source: Aging Well, "Devious Damage: Elder Psychological Abuse," Margie Eckroth-Bucher, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, accessed Aug. 30, 2016

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