Psychological Elder Abuse

Refers to attempts to intimidate, demean, or belittle an older person with words or actions.

What is Psychological Elder Abuse

Psychological Elder Abuse is any attempt to intimidate, demean, or belittle an older person with words or actions that are not physical.
Examples include the following:

Verbal Abuse

Yelling, insulting, belittling, or cursing at an older person, or treating them like a child.

Threats

Threatening institutionalization or to withhold critical support or services.

Isolation

Isolating them from friends, family and loved ones, or people in their social networks.

Limiting Choices

Limiting their choices and freedoms so that they are no longer independent..

Why Does Psychological Elder Abuse Occur?

Like physical elder abuse, psychological and verbal abuse can occur for many reasons.

Mental Illness and/or Substance Abuse

Psychological elder abusers also often have mental health or substance abuse problems, and may be verbally and psychologically abusive to others besides the older adult, such as other family members.

Longstanding Patterns of Abuse

In some cases psychological abuse simply reflects longstanding patterns of conflict resolution in which some families resort to psychological or verbal abuse rather than talk out their problems.

We are Working to End Psychological Elder Abuse

From research and policy, to direct services, the team at elderabuse.org is focused on one thing: ending elder abuse.

What Harm Does Psychological Elder Abuse Cause?

Psychological and verbal abuse can lead to other forms of elder abuse and very often accompanies other forms of elder abuse such as physical abuse.

Can Lead to Many Mental Health Problems

While psychological abuse does not in of itself cause physical injuries, it can lead to many mental health problems in the older adults including depression, anxiety, and helplessness.

Words Can Kill

Suicide can be a manifestation of longstanding psychological abuse.

Escalation of Abuse Possible

Additionally, psychological abuse can escalate into other forms of abuse such as physical abuse and financial exploitation.

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What Can Be Done to Stop Psychological Elder Abuse?

Many psychological abusers many not realize that their behaviors are abusive, as this may be a long-standing pattern of interacting with the older person.

See Something, Say Something

Sometimes, an abuser may come to understand that their behavior is abusive only after an outsider brings it to their attention.

Targeted Interventions

Stopping psychological abuse involves interventions targeted at the causes, such as depression or mental health problems in the abuser or caregiver stress.

Ask Questions

Additionally, older adults who are victims of psychological abuse should be asked about whether they have been physically abused as well.

Explain Trajectory

Older adults should be educated on the high likelihood of psychological abuse worsening or leading to other forms of elder abuse.