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How does mental abuse affect the elderly?

Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing

Let's define 'the elderly'. This is a tough definition because we seem to be getting younger as we get older!! They say that 60 is the new 40. I think, then, that when we say elderly, we mean those who have reached an age, over 65, and a condition that requires assistance in daily living. People who are older and independent are likely to be sufficiently confident in who they are as a person such that mental abuse may not be an issue. It could be, since we are all susceptible to a degree. However, those who depend on others to get through the day are vulnerable. They have lost confidence. Their self-image is altered. Their power base has shifted. These folks are highly susceptible to mental abuse.

As a family member or friend, if mental abuse is occurring, you may observe withdrawal, confusion, aggression...in short behavior changes that do not typify your elder. Unfortunately, they often do not complain because of embarrassment or fear that they may provoke more devastating abuse of be left alone. And, some of these behaviors are indicative of medical conditions so the abuse is masked to those who may be able to help.

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Elder abuse affects four percent of Americans 65 years or older, approximately 1.2 million elderly people. This form of mental abuse can occur within the family or in a professional institution like a hospital or nursing home. Elder mental abuse can range from neglect and ignoring the person to using harsh and threatening language. This form of mental abuse is also characterized by infantilization, where the older person is treated like a child to make them dependant on the abuser. An older person experiencing mental abuse may become depressed, withdrawn, passive, or anxious.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.