There are many different kinds of abuse that a person can suffer, and older adults are particularly vulnerable to certain types of abuse. Families with loved ones in nursing homes are often diligent in their attempt to monitor for signs of physical or financial abuse. 

They may not pick up on the warning signs of emotional abuse, however, although emotional abuse can be very devastating for an isolated older adult. Understaffed facilities create additional risks for both abuse and neglect. 

Professionals in any facility could engage in emotionally abusive behavior toward their residents and charges, but those who feel overworked and underappreciated in a poorly staffed facility may be more likely to take out some of their stress and resentment on the people under their care.

What does emotional abuse look like?

Emotional abuse can come in a wide range of forms. The most common and easily recognizable involves saying cruel or threatening things to another person. Repeated comments on your loved one’s appearance, statements that they smell because of their age or medical condition or even commentary about how no one must care about them since they never get visitors anymore could all constitute emotional abuse. 

Emotional abuse can also look like intentionally refusing to speak to or interact with someone, making them feel isolated or otherwise intentionally provoking negative emotional responses. Some of the signs your loved one may display if they experience emotional abuse could include depression, social withdrawal, changes in personality or overt statements that they are unhappy and feel mistreated. Take complaints from a nursing home resident seriously, and be ready to take action on behalf of your loved one.