What is psychological abuse of an older person?
Psychological abuse of an older person is also commonly know as emotional abuse. It is any act that causes emotional pain, anguish, or distress, or is demeaning to an individual.
It may be:
Name calling, or treating the older person like a child
Confining or isolating an older person
Withholding affection, such as refusing access to grandchildren, often referred to as grandparent alienation.
Preventing social contact with family and friends
Denying or limiting social activities, such as religious, cultural or community events
Not obtaining or incorporating an older person’s wishes or preferences in exercising powers of attorney
Misleading an individual’s capacity for decision-making
Taking away decision-making powers
Withholding or controlling mail
Taking over the older person’s home so that their normal social contacts don’t continue
Verbal threats, like “Do what I say, or I’ll put you in a home”
Psychological abuse is the most common form of elder abuse. 11.7% of older people reported experiencing this form of abuse in the last 12 months.1 Women are more likely to report psychological abuse than men.2
In the recent National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study half (49%) of the respondents who experienced psychological abuse reported being insulted, called names or sworn at in a way they found offensive or aggressive.3
Just under half of respondents (46.4%) reported being excluded or repeatedly ignored, or experienced behaviour that was undermining or belittling.4
Respondents also reported actions that involved preventing them from seeing or contacting family members or medical professionals (14.5%), as well as threats of physical harm (10.2%).5
The Australian research indicates that children are the main perpetrators of psychological abuse. Other common perpetrators of this type of elder abuse include sons- and daughters- in-law, spouses, friends, acquaintances and neighbours.6
60% of older people who experience psychological abuse do not report it.7