Sweeney Julian
Sweeney Julian

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Your Premier Indiana Personal Injury Trial Attorneys

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Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
AV | Preeminent | Peer Rated for Highest Level of Professional Excellence | 2017 | Martindale-Hubbell
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The unseen scars of psychological abuse in the elderly

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | News |

The thought of anyone harming an elderly person is repugnant to us. Their vulnerability and frailty are a reminder of how much they need our protection.

And when we hear of elder abuse, the first thing that typically comes to mind is physical harm. However, psychological abuse can do just as much damage and may be more prevalent in nursing homes than we realize. 

What is psychological abuse?

Psychological abuse is any action that causes emotional pain, distress or anguish. It doesn’t leave visible injuries. Instead, it’s insidious and often goes unnoticed. It can include behaviors designed to intimidate and humiliate, such as:

  • Insults, name-calling, yelling and constant criticism
  • Preventing the elderly person from interacting with friends and family, or engaging in social activities
  • Using guilt, shame or deception to control the elderly person
  • Threatening harm or abandonment
  • Ignoring the elderly person’s needs for love and attention

Due to its subtle nature, psychological abuse can be difficult to identify, but some indicators can signal its presence:

  • Unexplained anxiety, depression or fearfulness
  • Sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Expressions of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Avoidance of social interactions, reluctance to speak openly or signs of fear around specific individuals
  • Stress-related ailments such as headaches or stomachaches

Prolonged exposure to psychological abuse can lead to a severe decline in an older person’s mental health. In addition, stress and emotional turmoil can weaken their immune systems, leading to chronic illnesses. Their quality of life diminishes along with their sense of joy, purpose and fulfillment.

Being aware of the signs of psychological abuse is the first step towards intervention. If you believe an elderly loved one is being abused, it’s crucial to empower them by encouraging open communication and providing support. You must also report any suspected abuse to the nursing home administrator and adult protective services. You may need to move them to an environment that promotes the dignity, respect and autonomy of the elderly to ensure they receive the care they deserve.