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Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Elder Abuse

Elder abuse refers to any intentional act that risks harm to an older person. It could also mean a failure to act that causes distress to the older person. Elder abuse mostly happens in the hands of caregivers trusted to take care of older adults. There are different types of elder abuse such as physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, financial, etc. This article will expound more on what it entails, the signs, and what to do if you suspect a case of elder abuse:

What is Emotional Elder abuse?

Emotional elder abuse involves intentionally inflicting distress using either verbal or nonverbal actions. Emotional elder abuse can either be verbal on non-verbal. Let’s expound more on these:

Verbal Abuse

In verbal abuse, the perpetrator uses words and behavior to intimidate, manipulate or take control over the older adult. 

Here are some examples of verbal abuse:

  • Saying mean words and being cold to the older person.
  • Reprimand older adults when they have accidents that are beyond their control.
  • Acting or talking in a manner to cause guilt or shame. Also, embarrassing the older adult in front of others. 
  • Name-calling, ridiculing, yelling, screaming, and swearing at a nursing home resident.
  • Threats of harm to the older individual, etc

Non-verbal abuse

Non-verbal emotional elder abuse may be hard to clock because it involves subtle signals and belittling gestures to the older individual. The perpetrator uses body language and other cues to disrespect the older adult. Here are some examples of non-verbal emotional elder abuse:

  • Sulking and extending the silent treatment.
  • Ignoring the older person’s pleas for help or assistance.
  • Hiding the older individual’s personal belongings far from their reach. 
  • Isolating the older adult from other nursing home residents and restricting their attempts at socializing.
  • Hindering access to necessities like the restroom, food, or water.
  • Giving the older adult terror when no one is present. 

It is worth noting that sometimes, emotional elder abuse may happen unintentionally. The abuser may not have set out to hurt the victim but instead reacted due to being overly stressed. They may end up lashing out of their will. 

How prevalent is elder abuse?

Emotional elder abuse, including exploitation and neglect, is more common than you think. Most people aged 60 and older experience some form of assault or emotional manipulation. The emergency departments of most hospitals are no strangers to the many incidents of non-fatal injuries to older persons. The cases could be catastrophically higher since some victims do not seek treatment after an abuse event. Some events do not get to see the light of day since victims opt not to report to their families about the abuse. Moreover, since emotional abuse can be subtle and difficult to quantify, it can go under the radar without notice. 

What are the consequences of emotional elder abuse?

  • The victims suffer anxiety and are constantly fearful
  • They have issues with trust and are always wary of other people- even those not intent on causing them harm. 
  • Their physical health can degrade.
  • They suffer low self-esteem.
  • Some experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Depression.

How can you spot signs of Emotional Abuse in an older person?

As we said, emotional abuse may include subtle signs of disrespect and manipulation. That makes it less apparent even to the older victims undergoing the abuse. It is, therefore, crucial to understand the indicators of emotional abuse. Here are some things to look out for:

  • A newfound extreme agitation
  • Showing fear and cowering when the perpetrator is around.
  • Worsening of depressive symptoms. 
  • They avoid eye contact with some caregivers.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nervousness and passivity.
  • The older adult is afraid to talk openly. 

If you notice an onset of these signals in an older person, you should investigate any cases of abuse. It is worth noting that these indicators are not conclusive proof of emotional elder abuse. However, try to get to the bottom of it to remove any doubts. Emotional abuse could indicate that other types of abuse are happening. 

How can you prevent elder abuse?

Here are some measures to prevent emotional elder abuse:

  • Actively listen to the older adult so that they can trust you enough to be honest about their experiences.
  • Report any cases of abuse to the authorities. You should also take legal action to fight for your loved ones’ rights. Enlist the services of a top nursing home abuse attorney near you so that the abusers take responsibility for their actions. Keep in mind that you also have a right to file a wrongful death claim if you lose your loved one through nursing care negligence.
  • Again, know how to spot signs of elder abuse. 
  • Be present for older people who do not have many friends and family. It helps to have a support system to help protect your elderly loved ones. 
  • Ensure that the caregivers get some rest so that they do not lash out because of being overwhelmed. 

Final remarks

Emotional abuse is still a major issue affecting older persons. This is why it’s imperative to take all the warning indicators seriously. Reporting cases of abuse goes a long way in protecting vulnerable adults from harm.