Abuse of the elderly has reached extremely large proportions in the United States. Older people are more defenseless and easier to abuse than other people because of widespread physical or mental impairment. Many of the elderly are in nursing homes, causing them to be more socially isolated. The caregiver may become unable to deal with the stress and demands of caring for an elder.
Abusing an elderly person is like bullying a young small child. The elderly person, similar to the small child, does not know what to do to stop the bullying and will suffer. The elderly need someone to stand up for them. Just because they are an easy target does not give anyone the right to be abusive towards them.
Signs of Elder Abuse
Elder emotional abuse is defined as an elderly person who is intimidated or humiliated and harassed. This would include threats and insults causing the elder person anxiety and discomfort.
Powerlessness and anxiety are the most common signs in elder emotional abuse. Emotional abuse may not be visible but it can damage one just as much as physical abuse. Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated.
This kind of abuse is visible when the elder is displaying agitated or emotionally troubled behavior. Symptoms of confusion and withdrawn behavior are also indications of abuse The elder may be apathetic or withdrawn or nervous and scared. It is feasible that an elder person suffering emotional abuse may have symptoms of regression or unusual behavior such as biting, sucking, or rocking. Nervous tics may appear as well as mumbling. Weight gain or loss and is often seen in stressful situations. Hopelessness or inability to make decisions, mental anguish, anger, and fearfulness occurs. Difficulty sleeping or being non-responsive is also common. Mood swings, anxiety, or depression is likely.
Any mental illness will intensify in an abusive situation. Oftentimes a loss of interest in his or her self or environment is typical. Older adults may clearly say they are experiencing this type of mistreatment and abuse.
Emotional Abuse can Materialize in many ways
It is also known as psychological abuse. The abuser will inflict distress or pain through intentional verbal manipulation. Because emotional abuse can present itself in many different ways, it can be difficult to recognize even by the closest of loved ones.
Abuse victims are often embarrassed, or they may think they deserve to be treated badly. This will cause it to be more difficult to recognize the signs of emotional abuse. The abuser will directly affect the elder’s self-esteem and devalue his or her self-worth.
Common Emotional Abuse Tactics
- Threats of abandonment or punishment
- Blackmail (emotional)
- Treating the elder as a child or an infant
- Rights being denied such as not being able to call friends or family
- Affection withdrawn
- Access to others denied or isolation
- Silent treatment
- Yelling, Shouting, or cursing
- Calling the older person names
- Coercement or controlling their actions like not being allowed to join activities
- Depriving the elder of basic needs, such as food, water, heat
- Controlling all aspects of life diminishing the quality of life for the elder
- No attention paid to calls for help or moans
- Lack of assistance when drinking or eating
Emotional abuse is regularly accompanied by another type of abuse. This type of abuse inflicts serious emotional pain.
If there is a diagnosis of elder emotional abuse, removing the elder from his or her living environment is the first step. Placing the elder in a setting where he or she will feel safer such as with a family member and also selecting a counselor will greatly help the elder person to overcome the emotional abuse they have experienced. Medication is sometimes required to help the abused to cope with the distress, to calm down, and return to regular sleep habits.
Report Elderly Abuse
Thousands of senior citizens are daily being abused all over the world. In the United States alone, over half a million cases are reported every year by the people who are trusted and responsible for their care. Millions more elder abuse cases are not reported. Statistics show that only one in every five cases of elder abuse are reported. Emotional abuse causes unnecessary emotional suffering or pain and is a violation of human rights.
To report elder abuse of any kind you should contact the Adult Protective Services through your state’s hotline. The calls can be confidential and an investigation will be started. If crisis intervention is needed it will be provided for the elder person in jeopardy. You may find you need legal representation throughout this process. If so, you should seek an experienced elderly abuse attorney who understands these types of situations.
Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity.