Verbal Elder Abuse Guide

While verbal abuse leaves no outward bruises, it fills elders’ hearts with fear, distress, confusion and powerlessness. Also known as emotional or psychological abuse, this type of mistreatment can take many forms, and may be difficult to identify and prove.

If your loved one is being abused, they may be hesitant to come forward. For example, if a staff member at a nursing home or an assisted living facility is being abusive, your loved one may be afraid to report the incident and have the staff member take away their food, medical attention, or social privileges. One of the best ways you can help prevent nursing home abuse is to be observant. Document any suspicious behavior or incidents. Often times emotional abuse is accompanied by physical abuse so make sure you’re aware of any injuries or suspicious incidents.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse encompasses both verbal and nonverbal acts that cause anguish or emotional pain in the elder. The emotional abuse can range from minor to severe. Examples of emotional abuse include:

  • Excessive teasing or rude remarks
  • Ignoring the nursing home resident
  • Isolating the senior from friends or family
  • Denying access to activities
  • Blaming or scapegoating
  • Cursing, harassing, ridiculing or humiliating the elder
  • Threatening punishment
  • Infantilizing the elder
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Ignoring the elder
  • Badmouthing the elder to staff or other residents
  • Trivializing the resident’s concerns

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be hard to detect. Many elders think if they ignore the abuse, the staff person will eventually lose interest or perhaps pick on somebody else instead. Seniors may be afraid to report the situation and worsen the situation. The following could be signs that your loved one is suffering from emotional abuse:

  • Avoids eye contact and gives short answers to questions
  • A drop in self esteem
  • Agitation, distress, fear
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Inability to sleep
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Mood swings
  • No longer joins in group activities

One of the biggest clues is how your loved one interacts with the staff. Does she clam up when a certain staff member enters the room? Does she avoid meeting their eyes, or become agitated? Notice if this staff member is overly solicitous in your presence, but your loved one seems to distrust them. This could be a sign that their relationship is very different when you’re not present.

If You Suspect Verbal Abuse

Every state has an elder abuse hotline. In Texas, you can call 1-800-252-5400 to report an incident. If you suspect your loved one is being emotionally abused, call your state’s hotline so that government officials can investigate. A case worker will evaluate your elder and determine whether she or he is at risk. You may need to move your senior to different living quarters.

Once your loved one is removed from the unsafe situation, contact us.

At Powers Taylor, we have many years of fighting for the rights of elders. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of elder abuse cases and will help you fight for your elder’s rights.