Psychological and emotional abuse

Psychological abuse is a repeated pattern of behaviour by someone that causes mental pain or distress to an older person. Emotional abuse is similar and can cause hurt to an older person’s feelings. Each impact negatively on a person’s self-esteem and confidence. 

Psychological abuse is one of the most prevalent types of abuse which occurs for older people who are being mistreated by family or relatives. The perpetrator of psychological elder abuse can cause anguish for the older person, through threats, manipulation, fear, humiliation and other cruel acts. Perpetrators often take advantage of an older person’s vulnerability in ways that control and devalue the older person.

At times, the perpetrator will blame the older person for their own situation, such as unemployment, financial stress or the lack of social connections.

Often there are clear signs that other types of abuse are occurring, such as financial abuse. However, when an older person is being abused psychologically or emotionally, the signs might not be as apparent. This can make it difficult for the older person to talk about the impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Like any type of abuse, talking about it with a trusted person, such as another family member, or a service provider can assist to address the psychological and emotional abuse.

Psychological and emotional abuse can happen when the perpetrator:

  • Makes threats to harm pets or people known by the older person
  • Humiliates the older person
  • Withdraws their affection or relationship when disagreement occurs
  • Devalues the older person in front of other people
  • Controls the older person’s lifestyle, such as restricting who they can see
  • Blames the older person when things go wrong
Martin needed support in removing his wife as EPOA, after she ignored his will and preference.
If you, or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, help is available through our confidential helpline on 1300 368 821.

If it is an emergency, call 000.
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