Emotional Abuse

Recognize Emotional Abuse

Emotional elder abuse is a verbal or nonverbal act that inflicts emotional pain, anguish or distress on an older adult. It is sometimes also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse or psychological abuse.

Emotional elder abuse is almost always accompanied by another form of abuse, such as physical abuse. Emotional abuse of the elderly can range from a simple verbal insult to an extreme form of verbal punishment.

Elder Emotional Abuse & Neglect

Emotional abuse and neglect are two related forms of elder abuse. Recognizing the signs of these destructive behaviors is the first step towards their elimination.

Examples of Emotional Abuse

  • Habitual scapegoating or blaming
  • Harassment, name calling, cursing, humiliating, insulting or ridiculing
  • Ignoring the elder
  • Isolating an elderly person from family, friends or regular activities
  • Threatening to punish or deprive, intimidating
  • Treating an elder like an infant
  • Using extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement to a closet or dark room, tying to a chair for long periods of time or terrorizing
  • Yelling or screaming

How to Recognize Elder Neglect

Neglect of the elderly can be either physical or emotional. Neglect consists of confinement, isolation or denial of essential services. The caregiver who neglects the elder refuses or fails to provide or pay for the necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter, clothing, healthcare, medicine, comfort and safety. Abandonment, a type of neglect, is when the responsible caregiver deserts the vulnerable senior.

Emotional neglect (also know as psychological neglect) is demonstrated by a lack of basic emotional support, respect and love, such as:

  • Failure to provide necessary psychological care to the senior, such as therapy or medications for depression
  • Inattention to the elder's need for affection
  • Isolation of the elder from the outer world, including restriction of phone calls, mail, visitors and outings
  • Lack of assistance in doing interesting activities, such as watching preferred television programs or going out for cultural or intellectual activities
  • Not attending to the elder; ignoring moans, calls for help, or hospital call bells