Know the Warning Signs: Psychological Abuse on our Southern California Seniors

Elderly woman in pain

Psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse, can be difficult to notice at first glance. The damage often reveals itself in the form of changed behavior, as opposed to physical bruises and marks. It’s important to know that abuse can happen anywhere the elderly person resides, even in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, and can be sustained by any type of caregiver (paid, unpaid; professional, amateur). The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging, states, “most cases of elder abuse are perpetrated by known and trusted others, particularly family members (including children, spouses, and others).”

Examples of psychological abuse by caregivers, friends, or even family:

• Screaming or yelling;
• Intimidation via threat of punishment;
• Isolation from family, friends, or other social activities;
• Verbal abuse such as harassment, name-calling, embarrassment, and cursing; and
• Punishment, or threat of punishment, using terror or confinement (tied to a bed/chair for long periods of time or locked in a closet).

What are some signs that an abused elderly person might display?

• Changes in sleeping or eating habits;
• Low self esteem;
• Feelings of defeat, hopelessness, or fear;
• Unusual mood swings;
• Isolation from usual groups and activities;
• Expressions of self-inflicted hurt or attempted suicide;
• Avoiding eye contact; and
• Avoiding talking about possible abuse or the abusive caregiver.

Elder abuse and elder neglect often go hand in hand. Neglect can be both physical and psychological, both of which are incredibly emotionally damaging to the elderly adult. For example, an abusive caregiver might refuse to respond to calls for help, or provide routine physical care, leaving the senior feeling fearful, helpless, and abandoned. Seniors are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse and neglect due to their deteriorated mental and/or physical state, total dependence on a caregiver, fear of abandonment and the perception of a lack of resources needed to seek help. It’s this vulnerability that makes it so important for suspected psychological abuse to be reported immediately.

If you suspect that a friend, family member or loved one is the victim of psychological abuse, contact an experienced California elder abuse lawyer to help evaluate your case and advise you how to proceed. Award winning, and peer recognized elder abuse attorney Christopher Walton has years of experience providing caring, compassionate representation to victims of elder abuse and their families. Call (866) 338-7079 for a confidential consultation.