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What are the signs of emotional abuse in nursing homes?

On Behalf of | May 16, 2024 | Nursing Home Neglect |

Abuse and neglect in nursing homes is a major cause of distress in older people. They suffer from mental and physical pain, anguish and fear. Unfortunately, this happens more often than people think, so if you have a relative who is a nursing home resident, it is important that you are aware of the signs of abuse and neglect. Doing so may help protect them from further harm and ensure that their nursing home stay is a pleasant and comfortable one.

Below are the common signs of emotional abuse in nursing homes you may want to watch out for:

Experiencing unexplained emotions

While everyone may experience negative emotions from time to time, including sadness or a lack of motivation, a sudden change may be cause for concern. Frequently getting worried or anxious without any good reason may be a sign of emotional abuse. You may want to find out more about their day-to-day life in the nursing home to see if there is a reason for these negative emotions.

Disinterest in their favorite activities

At their age, your elderly loved one has most certainly picked up a hobby, whether it is reading, knitting, crafting or painting. If they suddenly lose passion in the things that used to spark joy in their lives, you may want to investigate why. Unless they have dementia, depression or a similar mental illness, this could be a sign that they may be getting bullied or emotionally abused.


Self-soothing is a behavior that may minimize feelings of distress or overwhelm. It is a coping mechanism involving the five senses that may help one feel safe, regulate emotions and cope with negative thoughts and feelings. This is a common trait among those with cognitive mental conditions but may also be a sign of emotional abuse. Watch out if your loved one rubs themselves, rocks themselves or hums and mumbles to themselves.

Reporting nursing home abuse

It may be sensible to report any form of abuse, but before you do, it is wise to distinguish emotional abuse from symptoms of dementia. Asking the right questions to the right people and not directly accusing anyone is a good place to start. If you believe that you have reason to suspect abuse, you may take legal action against the nursing home.