An older person’s mental well-being has a profound impact on their overall health. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness—all of which affect many older adults—can cause chronic and often deadly health conditions. Mental health issues are a concern for older people, even when their living conditions are relatively normal for someone in the later stages of life. But when combined with physical or mental abuse and neglect, these issues become catastrophic for seniors.
Even Without Abuse or Neglect, Mental Health Problems Plague the Elderly
Roughly one in five people age 55 and older experience mental health issues, including anxiety, cognitive impairment, depression, and other mood disorders. Access to emotional or social support also declines as we age; people aged 65 and older are more likely to report that they receive very little or no support than people age 50 to 64.
These numbers give us a reference point for the challenges facing older adults in the U.S. From this baseline, we can see how abuse or neglect compounds mental health issues suffered by older adults.
The Impact of Abuse on Mental Well-Being
Older abused adults are 300% more likely to die a premature death than older adults who don’t suffer abuse.
The connection between abuse and premature death is complex, but research shows that depression is far more prevalent among older adults who are abused compared to those who are not. Depression leads to hopelessness and despair, which can lead to premature death and suicide.
People who suffer from emotional distress like anxiety and depression are also more likely to suffer abuse. That abuse then increases emotional distress, leading to a cycle of worsening abuse and mental health issues.
Neglect, Abuse, and Loneliness
Depression, especially when caused by abuse, makes people more likely to withdraw from their support systems. Loneliness among the elderly is linked to an increased risk of premature death, dementia, and cardiovascular issues.
Neglect, also considered a form of abuse, inherently leads to loneliness and often hopelessness. Without a support system providing care or connection, an older adult is at greater risk of suffering a wide range of diseases and premature death.
Nursing Homes Have an Ethical Obligation to Support Residents
Nursing homes that don’t prioritize residents’ physical and emotional well-being create an atmosphere of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness in their facilities. That’s the opposite of what people expect these facilities to do when they trust them with the care of their loved ones.
In some cases, nursing homes hire staff that acts in bad faith toward residents, which could lead to physical or verbal abuse by nursing home employees. In many cases of nursing home negligence, inadequate care results from insufficient oversight and management of facilities. This makes neglect, incompetent care, and abuse at the hands of other residents more likely.