When Emotional Abuse (EA) takes the form of Emotional Elder Abuse (EEA), it has culminated into the worst possible case scenario for the victim, our elder. It is what I call the “Perfect Storm” where the perpetrators have found the ideal situation: the elder lives alone, their family is grown up and live elsewhere and are not paying very close attention. The family doesn’t notice when someone starts to move in on the elder and worst, they won’t suspect anything because the perpetrator of EEA will always be a person of “trust” – either a relative or someone such as a caregiver or social worker or neighbor – who has faked their affections to gain the trust of the elder and those around them. Instead, this person, skilled at blending into the victim’s life and not attracting any attention onto themselves, quietly and strategically, moves in and gains control over the elder.
Signs of EEA are not “obvious” but are more about “what doesn’t feel right”. In order to be able to detect signs of EEA, one has to understand what happens on both sides of the situation that the perpetrator is responsible for “creating” or manipulating intentionally:
A) What is life like if there is elder abuse taking place in the family?
B) What is the perpetrator doing to the victim in private?
WHAT DOES THE FAMILY FEEL OR GO THROUGH?
First and foremost, for the family, there will be a gradual build up of confusion, conflict and doubt where there wasn’t any before. No one will know why it’s happening and what to do about it. There will also be a gradual build-up of resentment, bitterness, unhappiness, loneliness, hurt, pain, distrust and anger that has been brewing amongst all the members of the family. Slowly, over time, everyone will find themselves yelling at each other or no one will be talking to each other.
What no one is supposed to notice is that there is only one person who is responsible for all of this and only one person has taken the position of “advisor” or “councillor” – someone that everyone seems to be going to get some sense of what is going on ….someone who seems to know what is going on at all times and has all the answers…..and that is the perpetrator!
Using a certain strategy and various tactics i.e. lying, gossip, accusations, etc., the perpetrator is creating tension between everyone in order to break everyone up. This causes three things to happen: it isolates the victim from any help from family and friends, it separates family and friends from each other so they can’t figure out what is really going on and control is being maintained by the perpetrator by keeping all parties separate and dependent entirely on the perpetrator.
Signs to look for:
- Is someone is trying to draw you into something? Don’t get personally involved. You’re being “influenced” to become an accomplice by helping the perpetrator victimize the elder.
- Is someone asking you to help fight their battles for them? Ask yourself ”Why can’t they handle the situation themselves?” If you don’t have any issues with the targeted person, why would you want to get involved? Don’t.
- Is someone dropping lines like “She’s so controlling”, “She’s always nagging me.” Question what you hear. If it doesn’t ring true, realize that, perhaps, someone is trying to gain your sympathy wrongly by playing the victim and is trying to influence you against someone.
- Is there alot of family fighting going on? Ask yourself “Who is the source of all of this conflict?” If conflict didn’t exist before, then someone is creating conflict now for a reason.
- Best sign of all comes when you get too close to the truth and suspect someone is hurting an elder …The perpetrator will throw up all sorts of smokescreens to cause so much more conflict, confusion and doubt in your mind just to throw you off. Try not be to be swayed by any of this and stick by your instincts.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE VICTIM THAT YOU DON’T SEE…..
Elder Abuse is where the elder lives in 24/7 terror – it’s a pressure cooker for them because of everything that the perpetrator is doing to them and causing them to feel in order to break them and get them to give over control of them voluntarily, believe it or not. Emotional Abusers can be very skilled at getting into deeper levels of the elder’s psyche that renders them not only emotionally but physically weak to a point where they are unable to defend themselves at all.
The strategy they use involves using various tactics such as isolating a victim, publicly humiliating them, repeat behavior, causing a lot of confusion, blaming, yelling, physically attacking them, threatening them, starving them, instilling fear, instilling guilt. This they do, 24/7, in the absence of witnesses.
You may sense that the victim is acting differently – they’re “not themselves”. What you’ll see or witness depends on the stage and level of the EEA but mostly, you should notice that the elder doesn’t seem to be acting independently and lacks certainty about everything.
Good signs to go by:
- Is the elder acting nervous?
- Do they look like they think someone is watching them?
- Are they deferring to someone too much?
- Are they sitting on their own when the family is all together?
- Is someone hovering over them too much?
- Do they seem sad, depressed?
- Is the elder acting embarrassed or overly defensive if you suggest anything is wrong?
- Do they seem in denial?