SI Elder Law LLC | Southern Illinois Emotional Abuse Attorneys for the Elderly

Emotional Abuse is a Form of Elder Abuse

File an Emotional Abuse Lawsuit to Obtain Compensation for Elderly Abuse Victims

Not all abuse inflicted upon nursing home residents and other elderly members of our society leaves physical scars. Emotional abuse, also referred to as psychological abuse, can be just as much of a problem as physical and sexual abuse, particularly to the victim, as well as to loved ones who learn of such a difficult situation.

The attorneys of SI Elder Law help seniors in Southern Illinois who are being subjected to emotional abuse and other forms of abuse. If you know of an abusive situation affecting a senior citizen in a nursing home or in the community, we can investigate and work to put an end to mistreatment, help to obtain any medical assistance required, and work to obtain compensation the abuse victim and/or their family deserves.

What is the Definition of Emotional Abuse of the Elderly?

Emotional abuse may be inflicted upon a vulnerable elder through verbal and nonverbal acts. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) describes emotional abuse a pointedly cruel, ongoing assault.

Emotional abuse may be perpetrated on a vulnerable senior citizen as part of:

Domestic elder abuse: Mistreatment committed by someone with whom the elder has a special relationship (e.g., spouse, child, sibling, caregiver or another close associate).

Institutional elder abuse: Mistreatment inflicted upon elderly residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, board and care facilities, foster homes, etc., usually by someone who has a legal or contractual obligation to provide care or protection to the victim (e.g., a nursing home staff member).

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If someone steps forward to help, an elderly person’s abuser can be criminally prosecuted in many cases. With the help of an attorney, the abuse victim, or family members on the victim’s behalf, may be able to seek compensation for the victim’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.

Identifying Emotional Abuse of the Elderly and Nursing Home Residents

Because emotional abuse of the elderly does not result in physical scars, and because isolating the victim from other people is one of the tactics of the abuser, emotional abuse can be hard to recognize among seniors we care about.

Emotional abuse takes several forms:


This includes isolating the elder from family, friends, activities, and information, as well as from money or economic support. The abuser may withdraw affection and give the victim the “silent treatment.” They may prevent the victim from leaving their home. Other tactics include lying or making misleading comments that are meant to increase emotional pain.

Threats and Intimidation

This abuse may include threatening to injure or kill the victim, or loved ones of the victim. The abuser may threaten or actually harm pets. It may also include general harassment and damaging the victim’s property. Threatening to put an elderly person in a nursing home is part of this type of emotional abuse, as well.

Insensitivity and Disrespect

Signs of insensitivity and disrespect include verbally insulting and humiliating the victim, or treating an older adult like a servant. This type of abuse is also manifested in intentionally showing disrespect or disregard for the senior’s cultural or religious values and needs.

Shaming and Blaming

This form of emotional abuse includes intentionally undermining the elderly victim’s ability to make decisions, control their own life, and remain independent. The abuser may treat the older adult like a child, continually blame them for accidents, and/or falsely claim that the older person has dementia.

The mind games and outright criminal acts, like threats and vandalism of property or pet abuse, that are  a part of psychological abuse can cause the elderly victim to suffer deterioration of their mental and physical health. They may eventually suffer from clinical depression and cognitive decline.

In addition, an elderly victim may show such signs of emotional / psychological abuse such as:

Becoming withdrawn

Fear and/or deference in the presence of the abuser

Questioning their own capabilities and/or an inability to make decisions

Disturbed eating or sleeping

Difficulty concentrating

Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol

Suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts

How to Report Suspicions an Elderly Adult Is Being Emotionally Abused

Some aspects of emotional abuse constitute a crime, such as threatening harm, abusing pets, destroying personal property or stalking (harassment). Anyone who suspects that a vulnerable elderly adult is being emotionally abused in a criminal or noncriminal manner has a duty to report it to authorities.

If you suspect that a nursing home resident or an elderly person living in the community is in immediate danger at the hands of an abuser, phone 911 for emergency response assistance. You may also call law enforcement personnel, but emergency medical personnel who suspect an individual they have examined is the victim of a crime will report their suspicions to law enforcement.

At a nursing home or other long-term care facility, suspicions that a resident is being emotionally abused should be reported to a manager of the facility. However, you should not automatically accept their assurances and excuses. Some nursing home managers will place the needs of their facility ahead of an individual resident’s welfare, or simply will choose not to believe and allegation against their staff.

You should also report any suspicions to have about the emotional abuse of an elderly person to state authorities. The Illinois the Department on Aging can investigate and assist emotional abuse victims in the community and in nursing homes:

The Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates complaints or nursing home abuse or neglect (and other regulation violations), and takes steps to resolve them. Phone (866) 800-1409 or (888) 206-1327 (TTY), or find aregional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program near you at the bottom of this Department on Aging web page.

Illinois’ Adult Protective Services investigates allegations about the abuse of adults age 60 and older who live in the community (and of people with disabilities age 18-59). A case worker will contact the victim to determine what services are necessary to stop the abuse. In some cases, Adult Protective Services may petition the court for guardianship to ensure the abuse victim’s protection. Guardianship and placement in a nursing home are always the last resort. Phone the APS hotline at 1-866-800-1409, or 1-888-206-1327 (TTY) to make a confidential report.

In addition to reporting emotional abuse to the state, you should contact a lawyer who concentrates on Illinois elder law, including cases of emotional abuse in nursing homes and in the community at large. An attorney hired to assist the abuse victim can investigate the case independently of the state’s investigation, and work to obtain compensation for the elderly person’s losses and expenses related to the abuse.

The Emotional Abuse Lawyer at SI Elder Law Knows How to Help in an Emotional Abuse Case

The Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act requires the Department on Aging to investigate complaints of abuse against the elderly, as outlined above. When criminal acts are identified, the perpetrators of abuse may be arrested, charged and tried.

But civil restitution after an elderly citizen has been abused requires experienced legal assistance like the attorneys of SI Elder Law can provide.

Our attorneys investigate cases of emotional abuse that has harmed elderly citizens of Southern Illinois.  We work independently of any ongoing state investigations, but stay abreast of any actions taken by the state and may provide information we have obtained to the state, if appropriate.

Because SI Elder Law is not burdened by the caseload and bureaucracy that state workers are, we can move faster and be more thorough that they can when investigating cases of emotional abuse against seniors. We work diligently to see that a harmful situation is corrected, and to ensure that the emotional abuse victim is made whole financially. If possible, we will pursue a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for their losses, such as medical expenses, property damage or loss, and pain and suffering.

If you have reported suspicions of emotional abuse of a senior citizen in a nursing home or in the community, or if you are concerned about how an elderly person is being treated and need legal advice, we urge you to take action now. If a personal injury lawsuit is warranted, it is a complex and time consuming undertaking. It must be filed within two years of the complaint of abuse or injury to avoid the Illinois’ statute of limitations.

If you have concerns about how someone you care about is being treated, contact SI Elder Law for help today. We provide free initial consultations in cases of suspected emotional abuse of Southern Illinois residents.

How Can SI Elder Law Help You?