Understanding Elderly Emotional Abuse and Its Preventive Measures
Among all types of elder abuse, psychological and emotional abuse is the most common and persistence issue. In fact, emotional abuse is also the hardest to track as often goes unreported. Unlike financial or sexual exploitation, the act of emotional abuse is not obviously considered criminal in nature. Contrary to physical abuse, emotional abuse doesn’t leave any physical evidence. In such a case, family members and other loved ones of a senior may not have any idea if it’s occurring as they don’t get to witness it firsthand.
Types of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is when a person acts in a way that leads a senior to emotional pain and suffering. Such anguish of a senior can present itself in a variety of ways like nervousness, agitation, sadness, or fear. Acts of emotional abuse can either be intentional or unintentional; it depends whether the abuser wanted to hurt a senior’s emotions or if he or she was overly stressed and unwillingly lashed out. Emotional abuse can take two forms: verbal and nonverbal.
Examples of Verbal Emotional Abuse
- Yelling and screaming
- Threatening or pretending to harm the senior
- Insulting, name-calling, and ridiculing
- Talking to a senior as if he or she were a child
- Embarrassing the senior in front of others
- Causing guilt and upsetting feelings
- Being mean and callous
- Blaming and scapegoating
Examples of Nonverbal Emotional Abuse
- Pretending to cause physical harm
- Giving silent treatment
- Isolating a senior from others
- Restricting a senior from socializing
- Limiting access to water, food, or even bathroom
- Treating a senior as if he or she were a child
- Hiding or taking away personal belongings
Effects of Emotional Abuse
Since the abuse is related to emotions and psychology, its effects are less likely to be shown physically. Noticing any behavioral changes may not necessarily signal abuse, but your loved one will feel uncomfortable in a particular person’s company.
However, if your loved one shows several behavioral changes altogether, it indicated that he or she is experiencing a continuous act of abuse. Always check with a doctor or a psychologist to identify the signs of emotional abuse. Though every senior may behave differently out of such abuse, the following are some signs that indicate emotional abuse.
- Excessive anxiety and fear
- Depression and withdrawal
- Frustration and agitation
- Sense of helplessness and hopelessness
- Lack of interest and enthusiasm
- Inability to make decisions
- Feelings of mental discomfort and passivity
- Personality and behavioral changes
The damage caused by emotional abuse will also be shown in your loved one’s behavior. It may be difficult to determine if the changes are caused by physical illness or emotional distress, but monitoring the situation closely and investigating will help you find out the reason.
Some effects can even get dangerous, leading to a general decline in wellbeing and even serious health issues, like loss of appetite and sleep deprivation. It can also lead to mental health issues like dementia and other mental disorders. Here are some behavioral and physical effects of psychological and emotional abuse.
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- Declining to meet or talk to others
- Declining to eat, drink, or take prescription drugs
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Loss of self-confidence
- Low levels of physical activity, energy, and responsiveness
To prevent seniors from becoming victims of emotional abuse, there are a number of steps you can take. By informing yourself and your loved one about the signs and effects of such type of abuse, you can help him or her feel confident to report such an act and be able to prevent abuse occurring to other seniors.
Preventive Measures for Elderly Emotional Abuse
There is a variety of reasons that lead to elder abuse, like trusting strangers too much or giving personal information to uncertified caregivers. Here are some steps you can take to prevent your loved one from falling prey to emotional or psychological abuse.
- Avoid Isolating Seniors
Isolating your loved one will lead him or her to sadness, depression, and loneliness, increasing the chances of neglect and abuse.
- Stay in Contact
Family members can invest some of their time caring for their loved ones or supervising when they are receiving care. Make sure to look for any changes that may indicate abuse.
- Help Seniors Stay Active
Staying active can allow seniors to boost their longevity and reduce the chances of being vulnerable to elder abuse.
- Encourage Attending Religious and Community Activities
Doing so can help seniors stay in touch with their loved ones and important things in their life.
- Check-In On Your Loved One
Visit your loved one regularly to check for any unusual situations. Don’t let your loved one love with someone who has an abusive or violent personality. This is because once someone has a history of violence, he or she is likely to repeat the behavior again, especially with someone who is weak, either physically or emotionally.
- Be Knowledgeable About Your Loved One’s Friends
If your loved one has friends, caregivers, relatives, or neighbors who need financial help or issues with illicit drugs. Such people are likely to manipulate seniors and steal their mismanaged possessions and finances.
- Help Seniors Be Aware of Their Financial Affairs
Seniors may need assistance from a trusted loved one to manage their money, but they should solely control their finances.
- Look Out for Sudden Changes in Will
If your loved one wants to change his or her will unannounced, go to the depth of the situation. Chances are, a caregiver or a family member may have impulsively changed the will or added their named to land titles and financial accounts.
- Educate Seniors About Scams
Seniors are easy target for telephone, internet, and mail scams. These scams are intended to steal personal information to get a way to their possessions. Scam artists will pose to be authorized individuals so seniors one can easily trust them and give their personal information.
Spend as much time with your loved one as you can to avoid such situations from occurring. If you are unable to care for your loved one, consider getting in touch with a reputable senior care agency. Make sure to check the record of their employees to ensure your loved one’s safety. If you cannot visit your loved one regularly, speak with him or her on phone for a few minutes on a daily basis to stay updated on his or her life.
Djones, M. (2018). Understanding Elderly Emotional Abuse and Its Preventive Measures. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/understanding-elderly-emotional-abuse-and-its-preventive-measures/