Petra Starkova, M.A.

The Worlds Within Our Minds

Psychological Abuse of Seniors, Part II

How can we recognize the signs?

Posted Nov 30, 2016

1. The senior is prevented from speaking for themselves and by themselves, without the presence of a relative or a caregiver. They are always with the senior, speak for them or emphasize that the senior makes things up, frequently forgets and confuses things. Moreover, they can stress out the senior’s problems and negative traits.

2. The carer repeatedly shows their anger toward the senior in their presence and unabashedly voices their negative feelings to them. They can overstate the senior’s wrongdoings, perks, or even health problems (such as stating publicly that the senior had wet themselves, in spite of how inconsiderate it is, and irrelevant to the listeners).

3. The senior is denied privacy; the carer goes through their mail and reads it, organizes (and buys or throws out) their belongings, doesn’t respect their privacy even in moments of personal hygiene or changing clothes, even if it’s not necessary from the point of view of the senior’s health.

4. The carer holds the decision power over who can visit the senior and when, and how they spend their time, even though it’s not medically necessary.

5. The senior is afraid to talk about certain topics and repeatedly emphasizes that if they talk about it to someone, the caregiver would be angry.

What can we do to help?
The first and elementary step is assurance that we trust the person, are here for them and will try to help them. Unless necessary, don’t take any further steps without their knowledge and consent. Try to inform them about the possible means of help and other ways to lead a life - e.g. how would it work for them to live elsewhere, have someone else to care for them, or how and where they could find such care. We can further inform them about the options of their protection, e.g. accompany them to the police and support their testimony with any relevant information you have. Also sympathetic people from their circle of carers or relatives can contact a psychologist or a social worker in the respective facility, or - even anonymously - call a helpline and consult their feelings, experience and options. Psychological abuse may be difficult to spot for many reasons, but if we recognize it somewhere, we should never just silently stand aside.

Note: This is an abbreviated translation of the author’s Czech article in the magazine Sociální služby (“Social Service”,