Recognizing Verbal Abuse Against Elders in Nursing Homes

Most of us love our parents and want them to have the best possible life in their old age. But we don’t live in a culture that’s very friendly towards older people. They are often left to fend for themselves and not all of them have children who have the time to visit them regularly.

Nursing homes have long been an option for people in such situations. In many cases we keep our elderly family members in nursing homes thinking they will receive the best possible care and treatment there. But unfortunately, things don’t always work out like that.

The truth is that abuse against the elderly in nursing homes is a surprisingly common occurrence in our society. I still remain in dark about the reasons behind this this inhuman practice, but after witnessing a number of such cases and hearing a string of heartbreaking accounts I can safely say that I can identify and recognize elder abuse when I encounter it.

Physical abuse is usually quite evident, but verbal abuse, while tricky to detect, can be as damaging and dangerous for the health of an elderly person, and needs to be detected and stopped at the earliest.

In this post I tell you how to identify signs that point towards your loved one being mentally tortured and verbally abused in the nursing home you trust to look after them.

Being Expressionless and Lost

So you visit your elderly father in the nursing home and find that instead of being happy to see you he is being inattentive and incoherent. He is talking to you but appears lost and expressionless. He does not have answers to simplest of questions and starts appearing more and more incapable of taking even the smallest of decisions. If you observe such behavior, don’t ignore it thinking it is normal, especially when your father was fine in the beginning. Question yourself why has there been this change in his behavior.

Chances are our elders will not tell us they are facing verbal abuse from the staff as they might feel embarrassed or frightened of the consequences of doing so. Study their behavior instead. Feeling blank, being unusually quiet and painfully lost are all indicators of verbal abuse.

Run a check on the nurses and caregivers dealing with your parent. Talk to other patients and their relatives and ask them if they too are facing similar situations and if they suspect anything.

Not Wanting to Deal with Money

Your father used to love his freedom and financial independence. But now he wants you to not leave any cash in his possession or remove money from a certain bank account citing various and inconsistent reasons. It is likely that somebody within the nursing home is exploiting him and probably even threatening him when he refuses to comply.

Create a secure environment for your dad. Take him along with you and talk to him if he is indeed facing any such abuse. It’s likely that if somebody within the staff is threatening your dad about finances, these threats are manifesting themselves in various other cruel ways as well, like not feeding him properly, delaying his medication, restricting his activities, and falsely imprisoning him.

Being Scared and Asking You Not to Leave

When somebody humiliates you constantly, pokes fun at you, calls you names and uses derogatory language while talking to you, knowing you are the weaker one, you feel all the more helpless and vulnerable. You want to run away from that person and the situation. This is what is happening to your loved one, too. That is why they are fearful and helpless, and constantly asking you to take them home with you.

Sometimes we dismiss their fears and pleadings as irrational or delusional behavior, but most of the times it is anything but.

Check with the authorities soon as you can. Ask your loved one why they want to leave and why they are scared. If they are insisting on you staying back or them leaving, they will most probably also tell you the reason behind it. Take immediate action. Your priority should be to keep your loved one safe.

When You Are Not Allowed to Visit without Supervision

In order to keep you in the dark about the abuse inflicted on your loved one, nursing homes sometimes do not allow you to visit or interact with them without supervision.

Don’t assume this is some weird, twisted rule of the nursing home. Why should your meeting with your loved one be supervised? What are they keeping an eye on? And what about privacy?

Watch the body language and speech of your loved one around them. If there is some problem, the tension in the interaction between the staff and the elderly person will be evident. Pick on that tension and talk to senior authorities. In such cases, verbal abuse is usually accompanied by physical abuse as well. Watch for unsightly marks on your loved one’s body and fight for time alone with him. Talk to him and find out the truth.

The Staff May Not Always be at Fault

The staff is not always responsible for the verbal abuse suffered by people in nursing homes. Aggressive and dominant inmates could also be at fault. They could be threatening, humiliating or embarrassing your loved one by saying mean and menacing things to them.

The moral of the story is that whenever you witness anything that makes you suspicious about the living conditions of your loved one in their nursing home, take immediate action to find out the truth and rescue them and others like them from the oppressive place.

More than half a million elderly Americans get abused each year in the U.S. We cannot just sit back and let this continue. Each one of us has an elderly person to take care of and all of us are going to grow old someday. We need to take action against these erring institutions to fight and prevent elder abuse.

About the Author:

Dan Brown is one of the principle partners and attorney at Brown & Brown Law Office based in St. Louis, MO. He has successfully handled many cases related to nursing home abuse and home assaults. The firm represent individuals from Missouri who are suffering from nursing home abuse and always ready to help personal injury victims.

  • sam holman

    I wonder what Dan brown would say about verbal abuse in the elders home when care is provided from within the family?

  • Adam

    I read an article this morning about 5 recent headlines in the nursing home neglect realm ( but never really thought about the ‘psychological’ side of it as well.

    Great article, will definitely keeps these tips in mind for the future!

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  • Deborah Claiborne

    My mother’s story:

    My mother, Louise Claiborne passed away at Howard county
    General Hospital on August 24, 2015. The last three days of her life was absolutely horrible. Before her passing, it was more than apparent that she was not being cared for on a daily basis. She was not given food or water. I was
    told that she would not eat or drink, but yet she was not placed in hospice care. She was extremely dehydrated. So much so that Howard County General
    hospital gave her 3 bags of fluid intravenously. She was given some tests to see if she had a UTI. They could not determine it because she had no fluids in her
    body to do a test.

    How could she possibly be given daily care at the nursing home like she should have been given, and be severely dehydrated? She was in pain, but could not articulate this. She was ignored. When my family arrived at the
    home, she was lying in the bed, and had soiled herself with fecal matter. A family member asked for assistance for my mother to be changed. It was over 45 minutes before someone came to help change her. There seemed to be some sort of confusion as to how to treat my mother. The staff kept quoting a document that they stated said to “NOT GIVE HER ANYTHING”. That was an untrue statement and absolutely ridiculous.

    I am trying to be brief, but this is not a brief situation. This nursing home is trying to cover their tracks by siting this document, when in reality, there was a document that states that if my mother was in a HOSPICE state, do not give her a feeding tube because she will pull it out. If her feet became infected, DO NOT AMPUTATE! If she had a severe stroke, make no attempt to put in a breathing tube.

    I was never asked to sign any hospice papers by a physician or anyone else. I feel that my mother suffered needlessly because this nursing home withheld daily, general care for her. Her teeth were never brushed, and none of her toiletries were ever used. She could not tell them that she was in
    pain voluntarily, nor would or could, ask for water. My mother needed to be coaxed into drinking and eating, but unfortunately the staff didn’t try. Dawn Jorgensen (nurse practitioner) said she put on the chart that my mother should
    receive water with her meals, not just sit the water in front of her and walk away.

    Bottom line for me, my mother was neglected. She suffered and died in pain. I don’t know how any one individual can get this nursing home to see what really goes on there. The residents are suffering but are afraid to tell. If they complain or ask for help, they are ignored. I have seen that for
    myself many times. I tried to let the people in charge know, but I was told that I should worry about my mother. I took that to mean butt out!!. That was one of the reasons that my family started bringing snacks and treats every Wednesday and Saturday for the residents after their bingo
    games, just to make the residents feel special, if only for a

    We used our own money during the year and a month that my mother was in that place. My family cut the days down to just every Wednesday due to finances. So, yes, I am very angry and heartbroken about the treatment my mother received from this place during the last moments of her life. She wasn’t comfortable in life there and she was not comfortable when she died after they got her out of their nursing home. My mother is no longer here. She does
    not have to suffer anymore. There is a lot more to this story, but I will end this by making a statement from my heart.

    If this nursing home is to continue to “CARE”, and I use the term loosely, for their resident, then they need to take an active part in the day to day goings on of their institution. It is not enough to just collect money from Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, etc., warehouse the residents, and ignore what is happening there. These people are human beings.

    They have worked, paid taxes, and raised their children. They now find themselves in this facility for whatever the reason. They have lived long enough to be taken care of in “decency and in order”. It does not matter if they are young, old, sick, healthy, inarticulate, etc. What matters is, if the overall care for these people, no matter what the malady. REMEMBER: TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS REQUIRED! I am watching you and I will continue to advocate for the residents there. If your business and facility is important to you, CLEAN UP YOUR ACT. Find people that want to do their jobs and want to do right
    by the residents.

    The owner of this facility (Comminicare, Ellicott City Health
    and Rehab Center, 3000 North Ridge Road, Ellicott City, Maryland 21043):

    Stephen L. Rosedale
    4700 Ashwood Drive
    Blue Ash, OH 45241

    Mr. Rosedale has not been notified of this particular
    instance, but I am mailing him a copy of this email today.

  • Ali’ D.

    I am sorry for your loss and you story is very touching. I am not from around your way But I do know this, you can go above the nursing home. Nursing homes have be inspected and I am pretty sure you are not the first person to come forward with information. Nursing homes also have to be licensed and also have to train their employees on various of topics such as elder abuse (they called this in-service training). I work in healthcare and because of that I know of this nursing registry of abuse that’s available in some states, I am not sure where you are from but look for it. On this registry if a person name shows up they cannot work in a healthcare setting but it varies by employer. Some check, some don’t check. Similar to convicted felons on some charges, they can work in some settings and some they can’t.

    Second, go to the attorney general for your state and report it if you haven’t already. Keep all paperwork that you may have. Any documentation of anything that you may have. Even if you have to record phone conversations with the people you are talking too. Because if they are saying things like that to cover their tracks they up to something.

    Thirdly, look into whether or not the nursing home has changed the name of their company recently or in the past years. If so there is a paper trail. And if you find out if they did have a previous name or names. Look into why the facility closed or ask around.

    What ever you do do not stop telling your story about your mom. It needs to be told. There are some youtube videos that talks about elderly abuse and the things that have happened to people. They go to jail. Where they need to go. No one deserves that.

    Wish you the best of luck for justice.