Every year, more than 4 million older Americans suffer from emotional, physical, and psychological abuse and neglect, and more than half a million of these victims never report the abuse, California elder abuse lawyers say. Although our society has several institutions such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities in place to offer elderly people care, comfort, and peace of mind as they age, often this abuse occurs at the hands of trusted caretakers or family members. In most cases, psychological abuse is the hardest form of abuse to target, because it often happens behind closed doors, and leaves minimal physical evidence.
Psychological abuse takes place when a caregiver, relative, or friend causes emotional pain and stress, either by lashing out with harsh, hurtful vocabulary, or by constantly putting the person down, or reminding them of their age, frailty, and other possibly painful or unpleasant memories. Psychological abusers often taunt or threaten their victims, calling them names, accusing them of ignorance or uselessness, and picking on their weakest points until the people in their care are beaten down and isolated from their other family or friends.
If the elder person has been isolated through psychological abuse, he or she may be unable to reach out for support and reassurance, to counteract the damage done by the caretaker. Such isolation also makes the abused person dependent on their abuser, both for care and companionship; the abuser can take advantage of that forced dependancy. The elderly person’s rights and wishes may be ignored by the caretaker, who is often the person’s link to the rest of the world.
Common signs of psychological trauma and abuse include low self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness, avoidance of eye contact, anxious or withdrawn behavior, a lack of communication, and any abrupt changes to routine, mood, or sleeping and eating habits. Victims are often shut off from the rest of their families and friends, and will be be unable to receive phone calls, letters and emails, or surprise visitors. Sometimes, persons who are being psychologically abused have intense periods of depression, and contemplate hurting themselves or others.
A scheduled check-up or doctor’s visit is a good time to report psychological abuse, elder abuse lawyers in California say. Mentioning several side effects of the abuse may raise red flags, and the doctor can take that time to examine the situation more thoroughly, without the abusive caretaker present. In addition to removing the abuser from a home or facility, doctors will sometimes prescribe medication to help the victim sleep or relax. Counseling is also recommended to work through the damage that has been inflicted by the abuser, as well as to restore self-esteem.
If you are concerned that you or your loved ones may be suffering from psychological abuse, contact an elder abuse lawyer at the California-based Evan Laws Firm, for a free, no-strings consultation today at 415-441-8669. Our elder abuse attorneys specialize in protecting older Californians from caretakers who have abused their role, and in preventing further abuse.