The emotional abuse against the elderly can be of the verbal type or the nonverbal type. Both can be devastating and include the following behaviors:
Blaming the victim
Scapegoating the victim
Engaging in demeaning behavior toward the elder
Humiliating the victim
Ridiculing the victim
Ignoring the needs of the elderly person
Terrorizing the elderly person
Behaving menacingly toward the elder
Intimidating the elder
Isolating the elder from friends, family or social occasions
Yelling at the victim
Using threatening behavior against the elder
The elderly person may show certain behaviors that are indicative of having experienced emotional abuse. These include the following:
Avoiding eye contact
Having low self-esteem
Appears depressed or withdrawn
Appears shyer than they used to be
Seems disturbed, scared or hopeless
May engage in self-injurious behavior
May attempt to hurt others
May have acute mood swings
May have changes in eating or sleeping patterns
May have the perpetrator keep them from seeing friends and family
May not be allowed to participate in social interactions in the nursing home
If it is suspected that emotional or psychological abuse is happening, this should be reported to Adult Protective Services or to other authorities, such as the police. When the government is notified, they will assign the elder to a government-appointed caregiver who will evaluate the situation and the elder.
This caregiver may ask the elderly person questions about how they are treated on a daily basis, what activities the elderly person participates in, and who they mainly interact with. The caregiver may also want to know who the individual likes to spend time with the most and why this is the case.
If the elderly person lives in a nursing facility or assisted care facility, the government-appointed caregiver will ask the elderly person how they are spoken to by members of the staff. They may also be asked how often the family or friends visit. After the questions are answered, the caregiver may perform a psychological evaluation to see if the patient has suffered from any kind of elder psychological abuse.
If it has been discovered that elder emotional abuse has taken place, it is important to relocate the resident from their current living arrangements to one where they will feel safer.
In addition to the general signs above, indications of emotional elder abuse include:
Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness
Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself
In emotional abuse, there can be the presence of uncharacteristic or unexplained behavior on the part of the elderly person and the abuser.
The elder is withdrawn and fails to participate in usual activities
The caregiver often isolates the elderly person and won’t let them be alone with other family members
The caregiver can be verbally aggressive or demeaning to the elderly person
The caregiver may be controlling, but not want to actively care for the elderly person