It has been estimated that as many as 5 million elderly individuals are abused every year. They are mentally and physically tortured by the people who are supposed to be caring for them, including nursing home staff. That said, elderly abuse swings both ways, and while it’s often less common, elders are also known to abuse their caregivers.
What is Caregiver Abuse?
Age, illness, mobility issues, and mental health problems drastically alter someone’s mood and change the way they interact with the world. It can make them angrier, more prone to outbursts, and less understanding of the needs of their caregivers and family members.
They may lash out, make hurtful comments, and ultimately make life difficult for people whose only goal is to help them.
This is caregiver abuse, and it creates a unique set of challenges for caregivers and loved ones.
What are the Causes of Caregiver Abuse?
Generally, caregiver abuse is characterized as long-term, intentional neglect, but cases vary. It may result from one of the following:
While age, injury, and illness are often considered valid excuses, sometimes the elder is just a horrible person. Just because they need care and are frail doesn’t mean they’re a good person, and it definitely doesn’t justify their actions.
For instance, a child may have been bullied by a parent throughout their life. The abuse may have been physical or mental, but if it was prolonged and persistent, it will likely continue as the parent ages and the child assumes the caregiver role.
A child in this position may find it hard to turn away, as they may feel a sense of responsibility and feel scared. More often than not, they are so used to catering to their parent’s needs that they simply do as they are asked and don’t question it.
Not everyone ages with grace and dignity. People who are prone to anger and frustration may grow to despise themselves and everyone around them, blaming them for their life not turning out the way they hoped it would.
They become bitter, they lash out, and they make life very difficult for the caregivers tasked with meeting their daily needs.
Sometimes, they are angry because many of their children have turned their backs on them, usually because they are not pleasant to be around. A single child or grandchild is left to pick up the pieces and deal with the negative comments and/or physical violence.
Mental Illness and Dementia
Conditions like dementia, bipolar disorder, and even substance abuse can change a person’s mindset and make them more prone to lashing out. They may not understand what they are doing or intend to cause harm. This is especially true for patients with dementia, as the kindest and friendliest people can turn violent and angry when they are in the latter stages of this disease.
How to Deal with Caregiver Abuse
The best way to deal with caregiver abuse is to remove yourself from the situation.
If they have dementia and you’re struggling to deal with the confusion and frustration that results from this disease, think about hiring a professional caregiver or placing them in a skilled nursing facility.
An untrained family member can only do so much because their own life is affected. They may feel like it’s their duty, but by assuming the role themselves they’ll be limiting the level of care provided to the patient and making their own life harder.
For a child dealing with a lifelong abusive parent, it’s often best to walk away. You are not obligated to care for them when they have bullied you and abused you throughout your life. Take back some control by putting some distance between you and your abuser.
When they are randomly lashing out, don’t have a history of abuse, and are able in both body and mind, it might be best if you sit down with them and discuss the situation.
Remind them that you’re not a punching bag and will not tolerate that kind of behavior. Be understanding, especially if they are coming to terms with a serious illness or the loss of a loved one, but let them know that you’re there to help, not to be abused.