What is Emotional Elder Abuse?

  • October 12th, 2018

what is emotional elder abuseAccording to the World Health Organization, elder abuse is much more prevalent than one might think.

Indeed, the organization asserts that one in six individuals above the age of 60 experienced some form of abuse in a community setting within the past year, and two out of three nursing home employees admitted to committing some form of resident abuse within the past year.

According to studies, the overall prevalence rate is 15.7 percent in seniors aged 60 or above. Additionally, the report suggests that these numbers are an underestimation and that only one in 24 cases is ever reported.

Because the elderly are less likely to report abuse to loved ones or the authorities, abuse of the elderly is not uncommon, and it takes many forms.

From financial abuse to physical abuse, and from sexual abuse to neglect, elderly individuals are more susceptible to various forms of abuse than most healthy, young to middle-aged individuals. That said, psychological elder abuse makes up the majority of reported cases, with a reported incident rate of 54.1 percent.

So what exactly is emotional elder abuse, and what can you do about it if you suspect that someone is abusing your loved one?

What is Psychological Abuse?

Psychological abuse refers to the manipulation of a person’s emotions or actions via verbal or nonverbal communication cues and/or cruel conduct. The exploitation must be systematic and ongoing. It is usually done to take advantage of elderly individuals’ vulnerability and as a means of control.

Emotional elder abuse is a subcategory of elder abuse, but it too takes many forms. Some common forms of psychological abuse of the elderly include but are not limited to the following actions:

  • Harassment;
  • Scolding;
  • Insults;
  • Stalking; and
  • Humiliation.

Individuals who perpetrate elder abuse often threaten older individuals with punishment, such as depriving the victim of basic human needs.

In fact, deprivation of basic needs is one of the most common forms of elder abuse, and also one of the most heinous. This particular subcategory of abuse consists of denying the elderly individual food, heat, AC, water, medication, or basic care. Some perpetrators take advantage of an older person’s disabilities, and may place a cane out of reach, glasses in an obscure location, or dentures in an inaccessible area.

The Negative Impact of Emotional Elder Abuse and How to Identify It

Emotional abuse is not just humiliating and degrading. It is also detrimental to a person’s health.

Emotional abuse leads to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and psychological pain. It can also result in a diagnosis of clinical depression, and even aggravate existing psychological issues. Unfortunately, many of the effects of emotional abuse manifest within a person’s psyche and are therefore difficult to identify. That said, if you suspect that your loved one is a victim of emotional elderly abuse, look out for the following symptoms:

  • Reluctance to talk openly;
  • Avoidance of eye contact;
  • Passivity, increasing depression, and/or withdrawal;
  • Hopelessness, helplessness, feelings of powerlessness, or anxiety;
  • Fear;
  • Contradictory statements;
  • Change in sleeping habits;
  • Confusion;
  • Isolation from friends or family; and/or
  • Missing appointments.

Taking Action Against Emotional Elder Abuse

If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of psychological elder abuse, or if you yourself are a victim of elder abuse, you do have legal rights.

Exercise those rights and protect your emotional and physical well-being by contacting Harville Law by phone at 502-245-2333 or by sending us a message online for a free consultation.


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