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Elder Abuse: Emotional Abuse and Isolation

Some signs of elder abuse, like physical violence, are easier to spot than others. At times it can be difficult to see clear indications of other phenomena that are just as harmful - here we're speaking of isolation and emotional abuse.

Isolation and emotional abuse are often used in conjunction with other forms of mistreatment against elders, such as physical and financial abuse. It's important to pick up on any red flags pointing to such behaviors, since they could lead to the exposure of other crimes a wrongdoer has committed against senior citizens.

Let's start with isolation: it's the tool abusers use to separate their victims from family, doctors, friends and the outside world in order to perpetrate further offenses. Isolation is meant to manipulate (often lonely) elderly victims into thinking that the abuser is the only person they can actually trust.

This means that a senior will likely not speak freely or openly in the presence of the abuser, and there are few chances for open communication for family, friends, clergy and medical professionals. From there it's an easy route to a victim's pocket book. Emotional abuse is often used to enforce isolation, and it is an insidious means of controlling elders and their access to loved ones and financial resources. Emotional abuse can include:

  • Verbal assaults, threats or intimidation
  • Subjection to fear, isolation or serious emotional distress
  • Withholding emotional support
  • Confinement

Some indicators of isolation and emotional abuse will come down to changes in demeanor and emotional state. Is the elder more withdrawn than usual, perhaps frightened, angry or reluctant to talk about pertinent issues? Can they be secretive about certain matters, especially ones regarding money, or simply seem forgetful or confused?

Should there be a number of these red flags, it's time to investigate further and possibly contact Adult Protective Services or local law enforcement.

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