Psychological Abuse

What does psychological abuse look like?

Emotional abuse attacks a senior’s feelings of self-worth or self-esteem. Use of verbal abuse by taunts, threats, put-downs, withdrawal of love and affection, or emotional support by the abuser, over a period of time, affects how a senior feels and is extremely harmful to his/her well-being.

Continuum of Emotional and Psychological Abuse

  • Jokes about habits/faults/age disabilities
  • Insults about the senior
  • Overly familiar, e.g., use of “dear” – not using name senior prefers
  • Speaking to third party (acting as if the senior was not there)
  • Treating senior as a child
  • Not looking at person with hearing loss – treating this as a disability
  • Ignoring the senior’s feelings
  • When placed in care facility – often choice of food, clothing, bathroom habits are removed
  • Not keeping a promise
  • Shouting – name calling
  • Repeated/targeted insults
  • Repeated humiliation – both in private and in public
  • Blaming senior for all faults
  • Lying to senior
  • Silence/shunning
  • Threatening violence/retaliation/isolation
  • Putting down senior’s abilities, e.g. as a parent/grandparent
  • Alienating children/grandchildren towards senior
  • Expecting senior to look after grandchildren when beyond the senior’s physical and other capabilities
  • Adult children moving home/living off senior(s)
  • Repeated threats – to put senior in a home/mental hospital
  • Nervous breakdown/depression
  • Threatened/attempted suicide by abuser
  • Attempted suicide

Psychological and Emotional Abuse Scenarios

Scenario #1

Paul constantly belittles his wife, Anna: “You’re stupid. You’ve never been any use to me. Serve you right if I left you. You’ll never manage without me. Maybe I should look for a younger woman, or put you in a home!” Anna has become depressed, feels ugly and unwanted, has trouble eating and sleeping and sometimes has thoughts of suicide.

Scenario #2

Bill, a widower, has gone to live with his adult daughter recently. Mary insists that her father remain in his room most of the day. “I don’t want you under foot, you get in my way.” Sometimes she ignores her father and does not speak to him for several days. Bill feels both worthless and useless. He wishes that he had not sold his house, giving the money to his daughter and son-in-law in return for taking care of him for the balance of his life. He believes his only choices are to find a place on his own, or move to a care facility.

Scenario #3

June and David are emotionally upset. Their grandson, Eric, has moved in with them recently. His wife has left him and he has lost his job, due to his excessive drinking. He has become very abusive to his grandparents, often yelling at them, threatening them and demanding money. Eric is a big man, and becomes very aggressive when he drinks. His grandparents are too frightened to ask him to leave. They also fear that he may become physically abusive to them if they don’t give him the money he keeps asking for.

Scenario #4

Harry, who has Alzheimer’s and is bedridden, lives with his daughter and son-in-law. They have hired a care-giver to come in during the day to look after him. When they return in the evening, Harry appears agitated and does not want them to come near him. Their neighbour tells them that she often hears the care-giver yelling at Harry and frequently he cries out. They discover that the caregiver is emotionally abusive to him and threatens to strike him. They fire the care-giver and Harry quickly returns to his usual self.