Elderly abuse can happen in many different forms. While elder physical abuse may be the most obvious type of elder abuse, elder emotional abuse may be the most common. Elder emotional abuse is also known as elder psychological abuse. It can be difficult to identify, because there aren’t necessarily any physical signs of elder emotional distress.
Elder emotional abuse can happen within a nursing home or assisted living facility. It could come from a caregiver, a volunteer, or any other person working at the elderly facility. Elder emotional abuse can also happen at home, with family members or an in-home nurse. Emotional abuse in nursing homes encompasses any psychological distress or emotional pain caused by a caregiver.
Elder emotional abuse may be verbal or nonverbal, including:
- Humiliation or ridicule of an elderly person – Verbal Abuse in Nursing Homes
- Habitual blaming, scapegoating, or demeaning behavior toward the elderly person
- Intimidation of an elderly person, through threatening behavior or yelling
- Isolating the elderly person from social activities or friends
- Terrorizing or menacing the elder
- Ignoring the elder
Elder Emotional Abuse Statistics
The American Public Health Association estimates that as many as 2.5 million Americans were the elder abuse victims in 2006. Data compiled in 2012 by the National Center on Elder Abuse and the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated further details of elderly neglect and elder emotional abuse rates in America. Elder neglect was the most common form of elder abuse in 2010, occurring in more than half of all reported cases of elder abuse.
Elder emotional abuse was reported in roughly 435,195 cases. The total number of elderly abuse cases reported in 2010 that were studied by the National Center on Elder Abuse were 5,961,568. This indicates that approximately 9.5% of the elderly American population experienced abuse or neglect during 2010.
Other statistics indicated by the National Center on Elder Abuse show that, during 2010, most elder abuse victims were around 78 years of age. Roughly 67.3% of all elder abuse victims were female. Furthermore, 66.4% of reported elder abuse victims were Caucasian, while 18.7% were black and 10.4% were Hispanic. This may reflect variances in cultures that include a willingness to report a problem or to care for an elderly parent within the home, as opposed to using an assisted living facility.
Signs of Elder Emotional Abuse
An elderly person may display some of the following behaviors that can indicate the person is experiencing elder emotional abuse:
- Low self esteem
- Avoids eye contact
- Doesn’t speak openly, which may indicate a fear of other people finding out about the elder emotional abuse
- Often seems hopeless, disturbed, or scared
- Seems withdrawn, depressed, or shy when the elderly person was more outgoing previously
- May display a desire to hurt their own self, or another
- Sudden changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Sudden mood swings
- May be prevented from acting or making their own decisions
- May be prevented from seeing other people, or from calling other people
- Not allowed to join in social interactions
- Psychological Abuse in Nursing Homes
Diagnosis and Treatment
If psychological or emotional elder abuse is suspected, it is important to report the suspicions to government officials. The state will assign a government-affiliated caregiver to evaluate the elderly person. The caregiver may ask the elder how they are cared for on a day-to-day basis, what the elder’s activities are, and who they interact with. The caregiver may also ask the elder who he or she enjoys spending time with the most, and why.
Diagnosing Nursing Home Emotional Abuse
The government-appointed caregiver will ask the elder how he or she is treated. If the elder lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the caregiver will ask the elder how he or she is spoken to by the staff. The elder will also be asked how often he or she sees family and loved ones. After asking a series of questions, the caregiver can address the psychological evaluation to determine if the person is likely to have experienced elder emotional abuse.
Treating Elder Emotional Abuse
If elder emotional abuse is diagnosed, the first step is to remove the elder from the current living environment where he or she is experiencing the elder emotional abuse. The elder will be placed in a safer setting, which may include living with family and attending an adult day care. Next, the elder can select a counselor or be assigned one by the state. In very severe cases of elder emotional abuse, the elder patient may require medication to calm down, cope with the emotional distress, and sleep regularly.
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