Senior psychological abuse is one of the most degrading forms of torture. Imagine yourself slowly peeling back the many thin layers of an onion. Each layer represents a person’s value, dignity and self-esteem. By the time you get to the core, there is nothing left. That’s what this type of abuse does and why knowing the signs of senior psychological abuse is so important. It strips people of their entire worth. As a caregiver, it can be heartbreaking to know that your loved one is subject to mistreatment of any form. It can happen within the family home, or in institutional settings like long-term care facilities.
Signs of Senior Psychological Abuse
Psychological abuse can be particularly difficult to detect because the signs are not often apparent. There are no physical markings to use as evidence, so you will be left with your gut instinct to go by. These guidelines will help you know what to look for in order to ensure your family member is not being mistreated and to take proper action.
Some emotional changes could include:
- Low self-esteem
- Avoiding eye contact
- Anger and confusion
- Sudden mood swings
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Withdrawn and depressed
- Reluctance to speak, especially if certain people are in the room
- Appears anxious and easily startled
- May display a desire to hurt oneself or someone else
- Inability to manage finances (giving money away, borrowing money and not paying bills)
Some physical changes could include:
- Unkempt appearance and poor hygiene
- Weight loss
- Soiled clothes (looks neglected)
- Living in squalor
These changes may be gradual, or appear over a period of time. If you suspect mistreatment is happening, talk to your loved one. Assure him he is safe to confide in you and that you are there to help. Don’t just ask once. A terrified senior will likely not open up when first questioned. Keep asking and keep reassuring.
It is critical to know that often several types of abuse occur at the same time. If psychological abuse is happening, it could escalate quickly to physical abuse if the situation doesn’t get under control. If the senior is in an institutional setting, talk to the resident doctor about your concerns. Involve the police if necessary. Depending on the situation, law enforcement may be called in to investigate. Above all, you know your loved one better than anyone. If drastic changes are happening, it’s not always due to medical reasons. The scars of psychological abuse don’t have to be permanent if the proper actions are taken.