A Quincy, Illinois nursing home has been fined a total of $2,000 over allegations that a certified nursing assistant committed mental elder abuse by slapping a resident’s baby doll. St. Vincent’s Home in Quincy received a citation for the incident as part of the Illinois Department of Public Health’s fourth quarter report on nursing home regulation violations.
Illinois Nursing Home Cited For Mental Abuse
In their report, officials for the Illinois Department of Public Health claim that an unnamed certified nursing assistant purposefully angered a nursing home resident with dementia by picking up one of her baby dolls and hitting it. Brian Inman, assistant administrator for the nursing home, agrees with the citation, saying the incident does in fact constitute mental abuse. Speaking to the Herald-Whig, Inman said the staffer had been suspended pending an investigation then terminated.
Staff Failed To Report Incident In Timely Manner
Health Department representatives say the resident had been diagnosed with dementia, anxiety and depression. She suffers from confusion and short- and long-term memory impairment. To make the incident worse, at least two other certified nursing assistants were in the resident’s room at the time, but none of them reported the incident immediately, as required by Illinois state regulations.
Callous Behavior In Nursing Homes
The certified nursing assistant’s actions appear particularly callous in light of other details. One co-worker says that all of the nursing home’s staff members are aware that the resident considers her three baby dolls to be her children, and doesn’t want anyone else to touch them.
Another staff member said that the certified nursing assistant reached for the resident’s favorite baby doll, smacked its head in front of the resident and told another co-worker it was “how to keep from being bored during a shift.” Reports suggest that the resident says “don’t do that” and “no” in a stern voice, then grimaced and reached for her doll.
CNA Admits To Abuse, Fails To See Problem
During an abuse investigation conducted by the facility, the certified nursing assistant apparently admitted to the misconduct, but did not seem to understand why her actions were wrong. “Oh,” she said, “sometimes we toss her dolls on her bed, and it riled her up. It’s kind of cute but probably not to the resident. Then we have to fix them for her.”
The nursing home’s director of nursing told authorities at the Department of Public Health that the staff member had undergone dementia training, but still made the choice to upset the resident by slapping her baby doll.
A member of the resident’s family told reporters that her loved one is unable to remember the names of her children. Her baby dolls stand in as surrogates for her family. “Those baby dolls are her everything,” the family member said. “I know this would have really disturbed her. She thinks those baby dolls are her babies.”
What Is Emotional Abuse In Pennsylvania?
The case illuminates an under-recognized violation occurring in nursing homes across the United States, including Pennsylvania. Emotional and mental abuse is a violation of the dignity and rights of nursing home patients. The violation is compounded for patients with dementia, who often suffer from confusion.
But emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, like physical or sexual abuse. And it doesn’t leave a paper trial like financial abuse. It’s a hidden form of abuse that many family members struggle to identify. It can also be hard for regulators to determine if emotional abuse has occurred.
While defining emotional abuse can be difficult, Pennsylvania law (Title 28, Chapter 201, Section 201.3) provides a clear guide. Mental abuse, as defined by Pennsylvania law, includes any form of humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment or deprivation that result in pain or mental anguish.
The closely-paired category of verbal abuse includes any use of oral, written or gestured language that willfully includes disparaging and derogatory terms to residents or their families, or within their hearing distance, regardless of their age, ability to comprehend or disability, including threats of harm or saying things to frighten a resident.