One common form of emotional abuse inflicted on the elderly is psychological abuse. Psychological abuse can be verbal or nonverbal and consists of any action that causes the patient emotional harm or anguish. Though a lot of the psychological abuse in nursing homes is inflicted by the nursing home staff, other residents are also capable of psychological abuse. Psychological abuse of the elderly is very dangerous because it can cause lasting emotional damage and even contribute to the decline of physical health.
When nursing facility staff inflicts psychological abuse, it causes elderly residents to feel extreme sadness, fear, and anxiety. Psychological abuse can be more difficult to observe than physical abuse. In addition, because some types of psychological abuse are nonverbal, they may be very subtle and hard to notice. Often psychological abuse is inflicted at the same time as other forms of abuse that cause a resident to feel helpless and depressed. Some types of psychological abuse include:
As mentioned, psychological abuse is a more subtle form of abuse than physical abuse. The signs of psychological abuse can be difficult to spot at first. As the abuse progresses, the resident may start exhibiting several indicators of psychological abuse, and it should become very clear that something is wrong. Typically, psychological abuse will cause a person to become more timid, withdrawn, and depressed. However, some people may react oppositely and may become more agitated and aggressive after being abused.
As the effects of psychological abuse worsen, it may start to have serious consequences for the victim’s health. If the victim is feeling depressed, he may feel excessively stressed or lose his appetite. These effects may weaken his immune system and make him more susceptible to illness. Some other physical indicators of psychological abuse are:
Whether the elderly person lives with family or in a nursing home, there is a high risk of psychological abuse. Certain characteristics of the individual and the caregiver situation will increase the risk factors of abuse. For example, if the caregiver suffers from depression, has financial problems, or struggles with drug addiction, the risk of inflicting abuse is higher. Other risk factors for the abuser are if he has less medical training or is working in an understaffed nursing home. These characteristics also increase the risk of abuse.
In the same way, the age and health of the nursing home resident affects the risk of psychological abuse. Residents who are more vulnerable or who require more care are more likely to be abused. The older the resident is, the higher the risk of abuse. In addition, if the resident is suffering from severe memory impairment or cognitive problems, the risk of abuse also increases.
If you believe psychological abuse is occurring, you should remove the patient from the facility or report the staff member who is causing them harm. You should then report the abuse to the authorities.
“Elder Abuse and Neglect.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2014. <http://www.apa.org/pi/aging/resources/guides/elder-abuse.asp&xgt;.
“Emotional and Psychological Trauma.” HelpGuide.org. HelpGuide.org, n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2014. <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/emotional_psychological_trauma.htm>.