Psychological Elder Abuse

Psychological Elder Abuse refers to attempts to intimidate, demean, or belittle an older person with words or actions.

What is Psychological Elder Abuse?

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


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


Threatening institutionalization or to withhold critical support or services.


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


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

Why Does This Abuse Occur?

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

Mental Illness and/or Substance Abuse
Psychological abusers of the elderly 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 this 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 is focused on one thing: ending elder abuse.

What Harm Does Psychological Elder Abuse Cause?

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

It 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, this abuse can escalate into other forms of abuse such as physical abuse and financial exploitation.

Your Involvement Can Change Everything.

Action comes in many different forms. Give treasure, talent, time, or talk. Just get active now to help us end elder abuse.

What Can Be Done to Stop This Abuse?

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


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


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


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


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