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Nursing home abuse comes in many forms. Abuse that does not directly result in physical injury, like emotional and psychological abuse, can sometimes be more dangerous than physical and sexual abuse because it can go undetected for years. Mental abuse wears down the victim through continued belittling, isolation, and emotional manipulation.

In a nursing home setting, residents are largely helpless and completely dependent on their caretakers. When mental abuse occurs, residents might be unwilling or unable to seek help and instead, live with the abuse because they have no other choice. If you suspect your loved one is facing mental abuse, be an advocate for him or her and speak up about your concerns. When your loved one’s facility does not protect him or her from harm, that job can fall on you.


Mental abuse controls and confines victims through psychological and emotional manipulation. Tearing down a victim’s self esteem is a primary effect of mental abuse. Examples of mental abuse include:

  • Using foul or abusive language with a victim;
  • Isolating a victim from others in the facility;
  • Calling the victim demeaning names;
  • Telling the victim that his or her concerns are not real and that he or she is not being abused;
  • Threatening the victim with specific repercussions for failing to comply with the abuser’s requests; and
  • Humiliating the victim.

Specific ways mental abuse can occur in a nursing home setting include:

  • Telling a victim that he or she is a burden on the facility or his or her family;
  • Threatening to withhold food, water, or medication if the victim does not comply with the caretaker’s requests;
  • Treating the victim like he or she is a young child;
  • Isolating a victim by keeping him or her out of social activities with other residents; and
  • Regularly discussing death, particularly in the context of the victim’s own death.


Mental abuse can make a victim question whether his or her experiences are real and valid. He or she might express feelings of self-doubt, become hyper vigilant, or become aggressive in an attempt to protect him- or herself from further abuse. Other ways mental abuse can change victims include:

  • Causing them to become socially withdrawn;
  • Causing them to become complacent and passive;
  • Making them emotionally unstable, which can be expressed as mood swings and frequent crying; and
  • Making them feel guilty or ashamed about receiving nursing home care or other “wrongs” discussed by the caretaker.

Long-term effects of mental abuse include:

  • Depression;
  • Sleep disturbances;
  • A worsened physical health condition;
  • Physical pain;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Dependence on the abusive party; and
  • Emotional instability.

Mental health and physical health do affect each other, and an individual who is suffering from mental abuse can additionally suffer from worsened physical ailments. An individual might also self-harm as a way to cope with mental abuse, which can be severely detrimental to his or her physical health.


If your loved one is being mentally abused by his or her caregivers, you have the responsibility to get him or her out of that environment and into a new facility where he or she is safe from harm. Regardless of whether you choose to file a nursing home abuse claim or the result of your claim, protect your loved one by moving him our her away from the abuse.

After ensuring your loved one’s safety, report the abuse to the Minnesota Department of Health Adult Abuse Reporting Center. The Department of Health will investigate your report and if necessary, take action to protect the other residents in the facility and prevent further abuse. A record of your report will also be an important piece of evidence to support your claim.

Through a nursing home abuse claim, you may recover compensation for the following damages:

  • Your loved one’s medical expenses related to the abuse;
  • The cost of moving your loved one to a new facility;
  • Any additional expenses related to your loved one’s experience with the abuse, such as the cost of psychological counseling for him or her; and
  • Punitive damages for the facility’s violations of your loved one’s rights.

If the abuse leads to your loved one’s death, you may file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for damages related to the death, such as your loved one’s funeral expenses.

Proving that mental abuse occurred can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Evidence you can use to support your claim can include:

  • Documentation from your loved one’s counselor discussing the psychological effects of the abuse;
  • Your loved one’s medical bills for medical care received related to the physical effects of mental abuse;
  • Testimonies from other staff members, other residents, and any additional parties who witnessed the abuse; and
  • Documentation of any policies your loved one faced, either institutional or imposed individually by his or her caretaker, that limited his or her freedom to live safely, treated him or her without dignity, violated his or her right to privacy, limited his or her access to information about the facility or his or her own medical care, or created a culture where residents were afraid to speak up about their experiences for fear of retaliation.


If your loved one’s health worsened because of the mental abuse he or she faced in a nursing home, you have the right and the responsibility to act on his or her behalf to seek compensation for all damages related to the abuse. Invest in your loved one’s case by working with an experienced mental abuse in nursing home attorney who can give the case the time and dedication it needs. Contact our team at Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC today to schedule your free consultation in our office.


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