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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Abuse - Article 8 - Psychological/Emotional Abuse


Sadly, psychological abuse is an aspect of abuse we read too much about.  It often appears that there are daily reports regarding Care Homes and Care Staff subjecting their Service Users to this abuse.

What is Psychological abuse

Also referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse or mental abuse it is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting, or exposing, another person to behaviour that may result in psychological trauma, including

  • anxiety,
  • chronic depression, or
  • post-traumatic stress disorder.
Such abuse is often associated with situations of power imbalance, such as abusive relationships, bullying, gas lighting and abuse in the workplace.


Signs & Symptoms of Psychological Abuse

·         Name calling
·         Yelling
·         Insulting the person
·     Threatening the person or threatening to take away something that is important to them
·         Imitating or mocking the person
·         Swearing at them
·         Ignoring
·         Isolating the person
·         Excluding them from meaningful events or activities
·         Humiliation or ridicule of an elderly person
·         Habitual blaming, scapegoating, or demeaning behaviour toward the elderly person
·         Intimidation of an elderly person, through threatening behaviour or yelling
·         Isolating the elderly person from social activities or friends
·         Terrorizing or menacing the elder
·         Ignoring the elder

An elderly person may display some of the following behaviours that can indicate the person is experiencing elder emotional abuse:

·         Low self esteem
·         Avoids eye contact
·         Doesn’t speak openly, which may indicate a fear of other people finding out about the elder emotional abuse
·        Often seems hopeless, disturbed, or scared
·     Seems withdrawn, depressed, or shy when the elderly person was more outgoing previously
·         May display a desire to hurt their own self, or another
·         Sudden changes in sleeping or eating patterns
·         Sudden mood swings
·         May be prevented from acting or making their own decisions
·         May be prevented from seeing other people, or from calling other people
·         Not allowed to join in social interactions

Caregivers in nursing homes hold a unique power over residents, as residents must depend on the caregiver for nearly all aspects of daily care. This position makes psychological trauma a side effect of nearly any other type of abuse, as patients often fear that exposing abuse will result in the withholding of daily care. This is a more indirect type of psychological abuse, but there are many types of more direct psychological abuse.

Preventing Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse can be as difficult to prevent as it is to spot. The effects of psychological abuse may take time to manifest, and residents may react differently to psychological abuse. Interviewing staff and touring nursing homes may not necessarily reveal psychological abuse as readily as it would reveal neglectful or physically abusive situations.

Communication with Residents

Interviewing residents may help to expose psychological abuse. Residents that have been psychologically abused will often exhibit some indication of emotional instability. Family members of residents should also be in close contact, so that changes in behaviour or emotional state will be recognized.

Handling Nursing Home Abuse

If it is discovered that a patient has been a victim of nursing home abuse, the patient should be removed from the setting immediately. The situation should be reported, so that other patients that are being abused can also be removed from harm. A lawyer should be contacted for legal advice about the abusive situation.

Treating Psychological Abuse Victims

Patients that have been psychologically abused in nursing homes may never fully recover. Working with a psychologist may help to uncover disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and may help patients to work through emotional pain and insecurities. Medication may help alleviate certain symptoms and may help patients to control physical symptoms and repetitive motions that have developed as a result of the abuse.

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