Elder Abuse is Wrong: Emotional Abuse

"A Stranger in Her Own Home"

Esha says nothing, as her daughter starts yelling at her. She wonders why Anila treats her this way so often. What happened to her daughter's love and sense of respect? Esha's back begins to ache; she has the breakfast clutter and the entire house to clean. And now her daughter, Anila, wants her to cook dinner for the children tonight. She longs to say no: she can already see them scowling at the traditional dishes she likes to make.

She was very happy at first to come to Canada. But now she wishes there was still a place for her back home. Her son-in-law, Chanda, is impatient with her country ways. And her daughter blows back and forth like the wind; sometimes her comments are just as cruel.

Esha rarely goes out; she feels unsure of her English. She'd like to go to the Indo-Canadian centre again, but she knows Anila doesn't want to take her. She feels stronger chatting with women her own age. They tell her that her children ask too much from her. Her daughter says they should mind their own business. Esha thinks she will ask her friend Sakina to come with her to talk to the social worker at the centre if she goes.

What does it look like?

Emotional (or psychological) abuse involves using words or actions to control, frighten, isolate or erode a person's self-respect. Emotional abuse can include:

  • Putting you down or humiliating you
  • Ignoring you or your health needs
  • Yelling at you constantly
  • Making threats to harm you or others
  • Intruding on your privacy
  • Making fun of your language, traditions, religious or spiritual beliefs, or preventing you from practicing your religion.
  • Keeping you from seeing your family, friends or community
  • Making threats to move you out of your home
  • Deciding what you can or can't do.

Emotional abuse is serious—inside wounds can take a long time to heal.

Some forms of emotional abuse are crimes. Stalking, verbal threats, harassing telephone calls, deliberate intimidation and counselling (advising) suicide are all criminal acts in Canada.

Many other forms of emotional abuse are not crimes. Still, they can hurt a lot and may lead to criminal acts later on.

Criminal Harassment

Criminal harassment is a crime. It involves repeated conduct that causes another person to fear for their safety or that of a loved one. You may be afraid because someone:

  • Watches you or tracks where you go
  • Leaves threatening messages
  • Makes threats to you, your children, family, pets or friends
  • Calls you over and over again, and perhaps hangs up when you answer
  • Sends you letters or e-mail messages constantly
  • Sends gifts you do not want

What can I do?

  • Tell someone you trust
  • Try not to let the abuse silence you
  • Write down what is happening to you. Keep your notes in a safe place.
  • Change locations, if you can
  • If you are afraid, call the police.

You do not have to face this alone. Talk to a social worker, a counsellor or someone you trust. They can help you understand more about emotional abuse.

Abusers can't always change, but sometimes there are ways to restore and improve intimate and family relationships. Help is available.

Elder mediation

Elder mediation can be a tool to promote family discussions that might resolve disputes and reduce conflict over issues involving older adults, such as caregiver stress, financial, medical or residential care decisions. By improving communication, you and your family can learn how to take better care of yourself and each other.

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