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Psychological Abuse

Since the majority of older adults live in domestic arrangements in their own homes or with their spouses, children, or siblings, this is the setting in which psychological abuse most frequently occurs. Although there is no single pattern of psychological abuse, it is reported that 90% of perpetrators of elder psychological abuse are family members.

Psychological abuse unlike physical abuse, often goes unseen and from the victim’s perspective it can cut deeper.

Age Concern estimate that around 70% of cases they see have involved psychological abuse. Psychological abuse usually goes hand in hand with financially abuse, with threats from family members wanting money.

There is no gender differences, with abusers being 50/50 male/female. This type of abuse is usually a result of a lack of respect of older people, which does the most damage.

Age Concern define’s Psychological Abuse as behaviour causing mental anguish, stress or fear.  For example:

  • ridicule or threats
  • harassment or humiliation
  • preventing choice or decision-making
  • withholding affection.

Things to look out for:

Unlike other forms of abuse, the person abusing another or being abused may not even known it’s happening. Often this type of abuse is insidious and occurs over a period of time. This is why it is important to identify what constitutes as physiological abuse.

Do they …

  • tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
  • regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?
  • call you names or label you?
  • frequently remind you of your shortcomings?
  • blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
  • continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?
  • use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
  • use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
  • make you fear that they will not receive the food or care you need?
  • Socially isolate or fail to let others visit?

Getting help

While it can be difficult to stop the emotional abuse, it is possible. The first step in dealing with emotional abuse is learning to spot the signs. If you don’t recognise or are  unaware of emotional abuse, you can’t make it stop.  It may even take another person whom you trust to bring this to your attention and help you through getting the assistance you need to deal with the abusive behavior.

No one deserves to be abused and help is available. Remember you are not alone and the abuse is not your fault.  It up to the abuser to change by learning to act with compassion, they need to learn how to deal appropriately with their own demons and get the help they so obviously need.

If you or someone you know is suffering from elder abuse and /or neglect, don’t ignore it, get help. You can contact the  Elder Abuse Response Service, a 24/7 helpline (0800 32 668 65) for free and confidential information and /or to connect you to a local elder abuse response service. A Family Violence information line is also  available seven days a week, from 9:00 am – 11:00pm.  You can contact the Family Violence information line on 0800 456 45.

If you are in danger, call the Police on 111.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams is the Content Developer and Social Media Administration for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.