Skip to main content

Psychological Abuse

Click 'Quick Exit' above to immediately leave this site. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.



Rosie, 75, lived alone in an independent senior housing community. Her next-door neighbor, a disabled retiree, repeatedly emailed her rude messages and sent vulgar and threatening messages to her cell phone. Fearing her neighbor might harm her if she told him to stop Rosie contacted local law enforcement and filed criminal charges as well as a petition for a civil restraining order. She also notified housing management.

Jane had not seen her friend Harry, 87, at Mass for weeks. This was not like her friend since Harry went to Mass almost every Sunday. Jane stopped by Harry’s house. Harry answered the door and Jane was shocked. Her friend had lost weight, looked terrible, and had obviously been crying. Harry told Jane in a hushed voice that since his son had moved in, he would not let him go to church, the senior center, or even out of the house. Harry said that his son was now controlling everything including his money. Before Jane could say anything, Harry’s son started yelling and Harry quickly closed the door. Jane decided to make an anonymous report to Adult Protective Services (APS).

Sarah, 75, had been married for over 50 years to Saul who was abusive. The abuse had a pattern. Her husband would start following her around watching her every move. Then he would make comments under his breath. Finally, he would start pointing his finger in her face and pushing her around. Since Saul’s retirement, this pattern seemed to be getting worse and happening more often. Sarah picked up a pamphlet on Domestic Violence at her synagogue and decided to make her first call for help. From her conversation with the domestic violence advocate, she learned about resources in her area and steps she could take to be safe.

Zoe, 79, was healthy, independent and lived with her unmarried daughter, Trish, to share expenses. Zoe believed they had a good relationship. Nevertheless, Trish sometimes yelled at Zoe, calling her horrible names and telling her she was worthless. Trish began threatening to put Zoe in a nursing home. Zoe tried to ignore these rants because she was grateful to live with her daughter.  However, she thought she deserved to be safe from such comments. Zoe eventually told a close friend about Trish’s yelling and threats. The friend suggested that Trish and Zoe seek counseling and that Trish get respite help from a local Agency on Aging. 

Mark, 75, had Alzheimer’s disease and was beginning to have severe memory loss and trouble walking around the house.  Mark’s paid caregiver, Yolanda, asked the court to appoint a guardian. Each time the guardian, Mrs. McKee, visited with Mark, she made fun of his memory problems and inability to remember where he was or even who Yolanda was. Yolanda became worried about Mark and the fact that Mrs. McKee, the court appointed guardian, did not seem to take Mark’s condition seriously. Yolanda called Adult Protective Services (APS) and the probate court to review Mark’s guardianship.


Did This Happen to You or Someone You Know?


  1. Has anyone verbally attacked, scolded, or yelled at you so that you felt threatened or intimidated, or afraid for your safety?
  2. Has anyone made you feel embarrassed by calling you names such as “stupid,” telling you that you or your opinion was worthless or blaming you for things that you did not do?
  3. Has anyone talked to you so that you felt that they were talking to a child?
  4. Has anyone forcefully or repeatedly asked you to do something so that you felt forced into doing something against your will?
  5. Has anyone close to you completely refused to talk to you or ignored you for days at a time, even when you wanted to talk to them?
  6. Has anyone kept you away from family, friends, or regular activities against your will?
  7. Has anyone close to you looked at you in such a way that you felt afraid that they were going to hurt you?
  8. Have you felt that someone was watching your every move to try to control you or that that person was stalking you?
  9. Has anyone you know made unwanted phone calls to you or left messages or sent unwanted emails, texts, or instant messages to you? 

Warning Signs of Emotional/Psychological Abuse Include:


  • Being emotionally upset or agitated
  • Being extremely withdrawn, non-communicative or non-responsive
  • Unusual behavior, such as sucking, biting, rocking
  • An elder's report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated
  • Witnessing a caregiver controlling an older adult or isolating an older adult
  • Exhibiting a change in sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • Personality changes, such as apologizing excessively, or depression or anxiety