You may notice changes in your parent's physical health after a few months of living in a nursing home. You might assume old age is taking its effect on their mind and body, especially if they also suffer from dementia.
But a rapid decline in health can also be a sign of mental abuse or neglect by facility. You can't jump to conclusions, but you should take action. Start collecting evidence and speak with an attorney if you suspect your parent is being abused.
The correlation between mental abuse and physical health
Studies show that mental abuse has a direct effect on the body. Especially for older adults, as their immune systems and ability to recall specific instances may worsen, mental abuse proves especially drastic.
Some examples of mental abuse that may occur in your parent's nursing home include staff members:
- Yelling or swearing
- Ignoring the patient
- Humiliation and taunting
- Threats of violence or other retaliation
- threa patient that they are wrong ("gaslighting")
- Purposely asking questions to confuse the person
- Leaving the room when the patient is in distress
- Withholding food or privileges
Family members usually do not witness first-hand the abusive treatment their parent may endure. But you may be able to see physical side effects.
Physical implications of psychological abuse
According to California's Administrative Office of the Courts, elderly men and women experiencing mental abuse may experience serious physical side effects, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Cardiac problems
- Weight loss and malnourishment
- Progression of dementia
- Self-harm such as cutting
Even if victims are not being physically abused, they are more likely to be hospitalized due to the adverse health effects of psychological abuse.
When mental abuse occurs in elderly people, they may be unable to make sense of the situation or give a voice to it. Perhaps they experience medical issues because their bodies begin coping in physical ways - deteriorating while you may not know the abuse is occurring. An inability to leave the facility may leave them feeling confused and hopeless.
You are not alone. Should you be concerned that your elderly parent is not receiving adequate treatment or is experiencing mental abuse in their care facility, speak with an experienced attorney committed to helping your parent live a happier life in the care of others.