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How to 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.

The following are examples of emotional abuse:

  • Ignoring the elder
  • Isolating an elderly person from family, friends, or regular activities
  • Habitual scapegoating or blaming
  • Harassment, name-calling, cursing, humiliating, insulting, or ridiculing
  • 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 known as psychological neglect) is demonstrated by a lack of basic emotional support, respect, and love, such as:

  • Not attending to the elder; ignoring moans, calls for help, or hospital call bells
  • Inattention to the elder's need for affection
  • Failure to provide necessary psychological care to the senior, such as therapy or medications for depression
  • 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

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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.

Within this section, the Bucks Country Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force has provided important tips on how to deal with emotional abuse or neglect for elder adults, their caregivers and the professionals who work with these populations. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.