The Psychological Impact of Nursing Home Neglect

By Osborne & Francis
May 12, 2024

Nursing homes are vital to our society, providing a lifeline for older adults who are among the most vulnerable. There are nearly 700 of them in Florida, with an estimated 71,000 residents.

However, what should be a place of care and comfort can sometimes be a nightmare. Neglect is one of the silent and insidious realities in nursing homes, making what should be a nurturing environment anything but. Authorities cited Florida nursing homes 83 times for putting residents in imminent danger for a variety of reasons, including neglect.

The nursing home abuse attorneys with Osborne & Francis will fight passionately for your loved one’s rights if you suspect they’re suffering neglect in a nursing facility. We’ll hold that facility accountable and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call 561-293-2600 for a free consultation.

Definition and Scope of Nursing Home Neglect 

The trust families place in these institutions is profound. They expect their loved ones will receive the care they need and be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. The unfortunate reality is that neglect can infiltrate even the most well-meaning of facilities, jeopardizing the well-being and mental health of their residents.

To truly comprehend the gravity of the issue, it's crucial to differentiate between nursing home neglect and outright abuse. While abuse implies a deliberate intent to harm, neglect often emerges from factors such as inattention, carelessness, or the dire consequences of understaffing. 

Neglect comes in many forms, inflicting a horrible toll on elderly residents. The following are just a few examples.

  • Physical neglect: Florida law mandates that caregivers provide residents with 3.6 hours of direct care each day. However, residents still suffer from inadequate hygiene or nutrition. Neglect also forces them to deal with intense physical discomfort regularly.
  • Medical neglect: People in nursing homes often don’t receive the medical care they need. This can lead to untreated illnesses or worsening existing conditions. This neglect doesn't just inflict physical pain; it can also be fatal. More than 50 residents died in Florida nursing homes between 2013 and 2017 due to neglect or some other form of mistreatment.
  • Emotional neglect: This is one of the most painful forms of neglect, as it involves the failure to address the emotional needs of residents. The resulting feelings of isolation, abandonment, and emotional suffering cut deep into the psyche of those affected.
  • Social neglect: Nursing home residents can also experience a profound lack of engagement, depriving them of the meaningful social interactions they crave. The result? Profound feelings of loneliness and despair.

The Direct Psychological Impacts of Neglect

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), in 2020, Florida ranked last in the country in the quality of nursing home care. According to AARP, 7.9% of nursing home residents suffered from pressure sores – one of the key indicators of neglect. The national average was 4.8%.

The psychological consequences of nursing home neglect are far-reaching and devastating. They can make being in a facility feel like torture. These are just a few of the impacts residents face far too often.

Depression and Feelings of Worthlessness

For many elderly residents, depression makes it nearly impossible to feel any sense of happiness. Signs of depression in the elderly often include the following:

  • Withdrawal from social activities.
  • Loss of interest in once-beloved hobbies.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns.
  • And many others.

The link between neglect and these depressive symptoms is painfully evident as residents grapple with overwhelming feelings of abandonment, insignificance, and feeling as if they’re invisible.

Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

These conditions are common outcomes as well. The constant anxiety is a consequence of the facility’s unpredictability and lack of security. In cases of chronic neglect or mistreatment, residents may develop full-fledged PTSD, complete with debilitating symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, and an intense fear deeply rooted in their traumatic experiences.

Decreased Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Decreased self-esteem and self-worth add another layer to the psychological toll inflicted by neglect. Feeling "forgotten" or devalued erodes the sense of self, spiraling into an impact on overall mental well-being. Residents suffer from a devastating sense of isolation and despair, believing themselves unworthy of care and compassion.

The Ripple Effect: Beyond the Direct Victim

The consequences of nursing home neglect can extend beyond the direct victims. Family members can suffer profound issues as well. 

For example, families who have entrusted their elderly loved ones to these institutions often grapple with an overwhelming sense of guilt and self-blame. They question whether they could have done more to protect their beloved relatives from such neglect. 

This inner turmoil doesn't just stop there. It extends to create a broader sense of mistrust in the healthcare system. Many individuals are now reluctant to place their elderly family members in care facilities, fearing a repeat of the neglect they've witnessed.

The Societal Perspective: How Neglect Impacts Our View on Elderly Care

The repercussions of neglect in nursing homes also ripple through society, casting a long shadow on the broader elderly care system. This societal disillusionment strikes at the heart of elder care, posing a stark challenge to restore faith in the system.

Economic Burden: The Indirect Costs Associated with Psychological Treatments and Interventions

Apart from the immense suffering victims endure, nursing home neglect also carries a significant economic burden. Treating the resulting depression, anxiety, and PTSD requires substantial financial, human, and emotional resources. For example, it can cost nearly $20,000 yearly to treat PTSD. 

Recognizing the Signs and Taking Action

Recognizing the signs of neglect is paramount in protecting vulnerable residents. Signs include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Emotional withdrawal

Family members must be vigilant and act immediately if they suspect neglect. Reporting concerns to nursing home administrators and authorities isn’t just a responsibility. It's a crucial step in protecting residents and rectifying the situation.

Regular mental health screenings for residents are equally vital. By consistently assessing and addressing the psychological well-being of elderly individuals, professionals can reduce the likelihood of undetected suffering. They can take proactive steps to reduce their distress.

Protect the Vulnerable; Hire an Experienced Nursing Home Neglect Attorney

Experienced nursing home neglect attorneys play a pivotal role in helping protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society. They serve as tireless advocates for the victims, helping families seek justice and compensation for the suffering endured by their loved ones. 

By taking legal action, families can ensure abusers face accountability. They can also force meaningful changes to prevent future neglect. The battle against nursing home neglect isn’t just a fight for justice; it's a fight for the well-being and dignity of our elderly population.

Osborne & Francis attorneys despise any form of nursing home abuse. If you turn to us, you can rest assured we'll do all we can to help you achieve that justice. Schedule a free review of your case by calling 561-293-2600.

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