Emotional and Psychological Abuse in Nursing Homes
A Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Explains How Psychological Abuse Is Often the
First Step Toward Criminal Acts
It is no secret that some nursing home residents are victims of physical
and emotional abuse and that, in many of these cases, this abuse is preceded
by a period of psychological “preparation.” In today’s
post, the nursing home abuse lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm will discuss an under-appreciated form of such emotional/psychological
abuse known as “gaslighting” and will offer suggestions to
family members on when to suspect that gaslighting has been used to influence
important decisions made by nursing home residents.
Although the term “gaslighting” has entered general use only
relatively recently, its name is generally accepted as coming from the
1944 film Gaslight where the plot revolves around a husband’s attempt
to convince his wife that she is going insane. However, many of the fictional
husband’s psychological devices are now recognized by clinical psychologists
as being used by financial, psychological, and physical abusers of our
elderly family members.
What is gaslighting?
In its most general definition, gaslighting means the deliberate use of
tactics that are intended to deceive the victim into believing that the
victim is losing their intellectual and/or emotional well-being to dementia
or some other neurological/psychological disease process. Once the victim
is convinced that he or she is incapable of managing their personal (usually
meaning “financial”) affairs, the abuser will offer to “help”
the victim with such concerns. In practically all such cases, this “help”
leads to the rapid depletion of any assets that the victim may own, including
bank accounts and personal property that can be conveniently converted to cash.
How does gaslighting work in a healthcare care setting?
There are so many techniques that can be used in gaslighting that it is
more informative to describe the situations where it is most likely to
occur. In healthcare settings, such situations or scenarios generally
have several factors in common.
1. The victim is undergoing emotional distress related to changes in the
Most gaslighting begins shortly after the victim enters an extended care
environment such as a nursing home or assisted living facility. Another
common factor in gaslighting is that the victim’s spouse has recently
died or has become incapacitated.
2. The victim is relatively disconnected from external emotional support
or informational sources such as family and friends.
Being placed in an extended care / assisted living facility or similar
changes in social activity invariably affects the victim’s ability
to receive outside information that would “disconfirm” what
the abuser is saying.
3. The abuser is in a position of authority over the victim, or is perceived
to be so, and is thus seen as having the power to punish or reward the victim.
Once gaslighting becomes effective, the victim may try to win the abuser’s
approval by accepting the abuser’s claims as factual.
4. The abuser is able to control access to information about the victim,
particularly information that may disprove the falsehoods used by the
abuser or lead to discovery of the abuser’s gaslighting.
A favorite tactic of gaslighters is to convince the victim, and the victim’s
visitors, that the victim “gets confused” or “is having
trouble remembering things.” Not only does this reinforce the abuser’s
lies, it also insulates the abuser from detection by other institutional
staff members or the victim’s family.
How are gaslighting and other forms of abuse possible in extended care
To understand the “how and why” of gaslighting, it should be
recalled that the typical victim is usually undergoing emotional stress
that arises from some condition that requires the victim’s placement
in an extended care or similar facility. Such emotional conflict is natural
and, in most cases, resolves with the adjustment of the victim to his
or her new environment. Abusers are aware of these stresses and will often
target their victims based on how fast these emotional conflicts are being
resolved, with those exhibiting slower adjustments becoming the most promising
targets for gaslighting.
Many assisted living / extended care facilities are chronically understaffed
and rely on non-professional (i.e. nursing assistants or nursing techs)
patient care staff to provide routine care. This means that abuse can
be concealed from supervisory personnel unless such supervisors follow
accepted practices for monitoring non-professional employees. If supervisors
fail to follow such nationally-accepted monitoring practices, both the
supervisor and the employer may be found guilty of negligence.
How a nursing home abuse lawyer may help gaslighting victims
It is important to remember that gaslighting, in and of itself, is not
a crime. It may, however, be used to establish a pattern of deliberate
behavior on the part of the abuser in lawsuits filed against the abuser
/ abuser’s employer which seek the recovery of assets stolen by
the abuser. However, abusers can still face criminal prosecution for crimes
such as identity theft, robbery, or forgery.
Those suspecting that a family member may have been a victim of gaslighting,
or any other type of intentional emotional or psychological abuse, are
invited to contact the nursing home abuse lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm, a nationwide law practice handling nursing home abuse lawsuits.
contact our nursing home abuse lawyer, your initial consultation and case review is always free of any charge
to you and does not obligate you to hire our firm to represent you if
you decide to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. Should you decide that
we should act as your legal counsel in such a lawsuit, we will assume
full responsibility for preparing your case for trial in exchange for
an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.