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How to Identify Emotional Abuse in Elders

Updated March 4, 2020 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Elder abuse can fall into several categories, including physical, financial, or sexual, and if you have an elderly loved one, you need to know the warning signs to help protect them.

The most difficult type of elder abuse to identify is, arguably, emotional abuse, because there are usually no physical indicators that the abuse has occurred. Nevertheless, emotional abuse can leave lasting psychological scars on elders.

What Emotional Elder Abuse Looks Like

Emotional abuse of the elderly can be described as any emotional pain or psychological distress perpetrated against an elder. This abuse can be intentional or unintentional, and it can cause fear, mental anguish, and other issues.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal emotional abuse is characterized by harassment, yelling, or manipulation. It can look like any combination of the following:

  • Yelling, swearing, shouting, or screaming
  • Name calling, insulting, ridiculing, or making disrespectful comments
  • Threatening, manipulating, terrorizing, or pretending to harm the elder
  • Intimidation tactics
  • Talking to the elder as if they were a child
  • Embarrassing the elder, especially in front of others
  • Blaming the elder or using them as a scapegoat
  • Withdrawing affection
  • Acting mean, callous, or menacing

This type of emotional elder abuse can be easy to spot if you are in the vicinity and can hear the remarks.

Nonverbal Abuse

Nonverbal abuse, on the other hand, can make elders feel helpless, fearful, or isolated:

  • Hiding or taking away personal items
  • Isolating or ignoring the elder
  • Prohibiting the elder from participating in social activities, talking to others, or going outside
  • Treating the elder as if they were a child
  • Restricting access to food, water, or the bathroom
  • Giving the elder the silent treatment

Nonverbal emotional abuse is just as serious as verbal emotional abuse.

Signs of Emotional Abuse in Elders

Elder abuse can be hard to spot. Keep these indicators in mind:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Uncharacteristic changes in behavior
  • Signs of agitation, nervousness, fear, or sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lack of interest in social activities
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Appearing depressed or withdrawn
  • Attempting to harm themselves or others
  • Reluctance to speak openly
  • Paranoid or confused behavior unrelated to an illness

If you suspect abuse of any kind, file a report and contact an attorney.

Contact a Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorney Today

If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being abused or neglected, contact the Indianapolis Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


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