Senior Spousal Abuse: Triggers, Signs, and Taking Action - The Caring Chronicles | Senior Caring Blog

Senior Spousal Abuse: Triggers, Signs, and Taking Action

Senior spousal abuse, closely related to domestic violence, is one of the many types of elder abuse. The abuse experienced is similar to that of younger victims, but can also become more serious with age. “Domestic violence grown old” is the idea that abuse in earlier years can lead to a continuation of abuse in elder years. Identifying senior spousal abuse can be difficult, especially if you don’t often to interact with those involved. Many times, spouses that are still independent become the caregiver for elder individuals who need help. This can present even more opportunities for abuse.

Senior Spousal Abuse

Senior spousal abuse comes in many forms, and can also be triggered by different causes. If your senior’s spouse is the primary caregiver, there are signs that you can watch for. Even if you don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, checking in once in a while can allow you to make sure your senior is safe and getting adequate care. In addition to the abuse tactics mentioned, age-related abuse can also be added.

Triggers of Senior Spousal Abuse

As seniors age, they become more dependent on others to carry out daily tasks. When a spouse becomes a caregiver, it can prompt mental health issues and emotional disorders to arise, resulting in a lack of proper care and senior spousal abuse.

Past Abuse

If the couple has a history of domestic violence or abuse, it’s likely that it will continue as they age. One person is getting weaker, which makes it easier to take advantage of him/her. On top of the abuse that’s already happening, age-related maltreatment can also be piled on.

Mental Stress

Becoming a caregiver can be very stressful, especially for a spouse. Senior spousal abuse can occur when the spouse breaks down emotionally. Experiencing the decline of your spouse isn’t easy, so it’s common for the mental wear and tear to become too strong. Most maltreatment caused by mental stress starts as verbal abuse, but it can lead to physical abuse if not addressed in time.


As seniors retire, they’re ready to take advantage of their well-deserved relaxation time. But instead of getting that time, their spouse falls ill and becomes dependent. Senior spousal caregivers can experience feelings of resentment when they feel that they are stuck taking care of their loved one and are losing their own freedom. Without realizing it, the unforeseen circumstances can cause great psychological scars. This can cause anger to be taken out on the spouse being cared for.

Signs of Senior Spousal Abuse

It’s important for adult children to keep tabs on their senior’s care to make sure there are no signs of elder abuse. Check in with your senior regularly, and visit frequently if possible. Even if you know there is no history of abuse, it’s not guaranteed that it can’t happen.

Some red flags include:

  • Under-medication or over-medication
  • Lack of nourishment
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Isolation, intimidation, threats
  • Poor hygiene and untreated areas
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Loss of material possessions (jewelry, money, dentures, hearing aids, etc.)

How to Handle Senior Spousal Abuse

If you become aware of abuse from a senior spouse, it is your duty to address it. As your senior ages, they become more helpless and might not be able to take action themselves. They also might feel ashamed to admit abuse or feel intimidated that the abuser might retaliate. Keep in mind that your senior might still have an opinion on the matter. But, use your judgment, because senior spousal abuse can become fatal.

Seeing a counselor to address the issue can be helpful. Most counselors for elder abuse are trained to encourage cooperation from seniors. Counseling can help to allow seniors to speak openly about personal experiences with someone outside of their family. Available resources can vary by state, and you can locate them through the map on the National Center for Edler Abuse website. Some common resources in the community include physicians, senior community centers, police, and other professionals.

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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