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What Is Emotional Elder Abuse?

What Is Emotional Elder Abuse?


Elder abuse should never occur. Unfortunately, there are those who unintentionally cause harm and intentionally seek to do harm to those under their care. There are various types of elder abuse that can take place, including physical abuse and sexual abuse. Additionally, elderly people can also experience emotional abuse that can have a dramatic effect on their lives. Here, we want to define emotional elder abuse and look at how this can occur regardless of whether or not there is any actual physical abuse happening.

Defining Emotional Elder Abuse

Emotional elder abuse can occur when a person suffers from a variety of types of harassment from a caregiver. This can include family member caregivers, paid in-home caregivers, nursing home care staff, and others.

When a caregiver insults, yells at, intimidates, or otherwise verbally harasses an elderly person, this can constitute emotional elder abuse. Emotional abuse is one of the most common types of elder abuse that occurs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Data suggests that around one out of every three nursing home workers has admitted to psychologically abusing residents, according to a 2020 WHO study.

Additionally, it is not uncommon to discover that emotional elder abuse happens in conjunction with other types of elder abuse. This could include physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and more. 

Causes of Emotional Elder Abuse

There are a variety of reasons that emotional elder abuse occurs. First, we have to look at some of the risk factors associated with elder abuse that make some people more likely than others to suffer this type of treatment. Elderly people are at higher risk of emotional abuse if they:

  • Have any mental or physical impairments (those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are much more likely to suffer from elder abuse)
  • Are divorced or separated
  • Live in a lower-income household or area

There are a variety of factors that can increase the likelihood that a caretaker will commit emotional elder abuse. Some of these factors include caregiver burnout, which is a real problem that can affect every party involved in a person’s care. Additionally, caregivers who are underpaid or undertrained are much more likely to become perpetrators of all types of elder abuse.

Signs an Elderly Person has Sustained Emotional Elder Abuse

There are a variety of signs of elder abuse that friends and family members should be on the lookout for. It can be more difficult to discover the signs and symptoms of emotional abuse because these are not physical indicators:

  • Appearing afraid in front of the caregiver
  • Depressed or withdrawn appearance
  • Acting shyer than usual
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Engaging in self-harm
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Isolating from friends or family members
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Flinching around certain individuals
  • Self-neglect

If you think that your loved one has been the victim of emotional elder abuse, there are a variety of steps that you can take. If you think an emergency is ongoing, call law enforcement authorities and have them investigate the incident. You may need to involve a skilled San Diego elder abuse attorney who can help you through this difficult situation. If your loved one has been emotionally abused at the hands of a caregiver, they may be entitled to various types of compensation for what happened.