An estimated 2.5 million Americans were the victims of elder abuse in 2006. (American Public Health Association)
Psychological abuse, also known as emotional abuse, could include assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, deception or intimidation. Emotional abuse regularly occurs in a nursing home facility, and it’s very difficult to track and identify.
Emotional abuse may be verbal or non-verbal, and it may include belittling or humiliation. It may occur in the form of deprivation or coercive behaviors, such as giving the silent treatment, blaming, scapegoating or isolating residents in a nursing home.
What is psychological abuse?
Emotional or psychological abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. About 67 percent of elder emotional abuse victims in nursing homes were women.
Examples of emotional abuse include verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. In addition, emotional abuse could occur when a caregiver treats an older person like an infant or isolating them from friends and family.
What are the signs of psychological abuse?
Psychological abuse can be hard to identify, especially because there may not be physical proof or evidence. Psychological abuse often causes a change in the individual being abused, and caregivers or family members may notice they seem agitated, withdrawn, nervous, afraid or sad.
The elder’s signs of abuse will change based on the type of emotional abuse, whether it’s verbal harassment, yelling, or emotional manipulation. In some cases, an elder will avoid contact and in others, they will experience sudden, unexplained mood swings.
Signs of psychological abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
- A sudden change in alertness
- Unusual depression
- Strained or tense relationships
- Frequent arguments
- Being emotionally upset or agitated
- Being non-communicative or non-responsive
- Unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking)
- An elder’s report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated
When an elder becomes distressed, it may indicate there is a presence of emotional or psychological abuse. Many of the signs of emotional abuse also have a crossover with symptoms of chronic illness, cognitive difficulties or other injuries.
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