Skip to Content
Virginia Injury & Will Contest Attorneys

Signs of Emotional Abuse at Nursing Homes

Elderly woman with bruised finger nail holds her face and seems upset

Not all wounds are physical, and not all abuse is visible. 30% of American nursing homes exhibit some form of elder abuse. For that reason, everyone must observe and listen to elders in need. Identifying and reporting abuse begins with knowing the signs of emotional abuse in nursing homes.

Examples of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is extremely common in nursing homes. Sometimes, staff get frustrated and resort to name-calling. Other times, staff engage in deliberate and malicious psychological torment.

A few examples of emotional abuse include,

  • Threats and intimidation (“Take your pills, or else”)
  • Infantilization (“It’s nap time. That means you have to sleep now.”)
  • Social Isolation (“No, you can’t go to the dayroom with your friends.”)
  • Gaslighting (“Nobody moved your glasses. You obviously misplaced them.”)

These are all examples of psychological torment. They manipulate their target into complying or otherwise restricting their autonomy. As a result, many elders in nursing homes feel helpless to speak out.

Symptoms of Emotional Abuse

Most people respond to emotional abuse in one of three ways: Anger, panic, or depression. It’s important to understand all three of these responses, especially the silent ones. Victims of emotional abuse may be reluctant to share their experiences.

Symptoms of emotional abuse include:


  • Elder is angry or upset.
  • Elder directly states they are being mistreated.


  • Elder experiences anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Elder is visibly uncomfortable when they see a particular staff member.


  • Elder seem sad or withdrawn
  • Elder exhibits signs of depression
  • Elder refuses to talk altogether

Anyone who notices these symptoms should be on the lookout for additional signs of abuse. Those who suspect their loved one suffered abuse in a nursing home should remove them from the site immediately and contact an attorney as soon as possible.

If someone you love suffers from nursing home abuse, you might have a case. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney from the Obenshain law group, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (540) 318-7360.