Public awareness is growing surrounding elder abuse and numerous programs and task forces are working to prevent the physical, psychological and financial abuse of a growing number of seniors worldwide. But caregivers of seniors, especially those dealing with dementia, can also be the victims of abuse.
Elderly parents and other family members can sometimes turn on those they depend on for care in older age, frustrated by their lack of independence, facing their own mortality and feeling betrayed by their own bodies. Being confused and frightened can cause some seniors to lash out at the person who is around most often, their primary caregiver.
With increased emphasis on preventing and reporting elder abuse, which is occurring all too often, caregivers facing their own brand of abuse, along with increased stress, can often struggle alone in silence. Chronically ill elders may vent their frustrations by striking out at their caregivers, physically and emotionally. But what can children or other caregivers of seniors requiring their help do to cope with an abusive situation?
Tips for Caregivers Being Abused
- Share your concerns with the elder’s physician
- Seek counseling to help facilitate change if the care receiver has the cognitive ability
- If Alzheimer’s Disease is diagnosed, seek the help of the Alzheimer’s Foundation Hotline 1-800-272-3900 in the US; in Canada call the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada Helpline at 1-800-616-8816
- Call 911 for emergency help if the situation escalates and becomes dangerous
- Find a caregiver support group locally or online
- Investigate alternative housing or respite care – contact a social worker to assist in the process
- Try to create a care team to share the burden of caregiving and minimize abuse
- Do not isolate yourself; invite friends and family to visit, unexpected visits can help validate a claim of abuse.
- Know your limits and when it is time to make a change. Set boundaries.
With the proportion of seniors over the age of 85 expected to more than triple by 2050, the number of elder caregivers, currently 44 million in the United States alone, will also sharply rise. Caregivers are often placed in their role out of a sense of love but also duty; this pressure to become a caregiver can result in a host of emotional issues stemming from family dynamics. A report from the University of California Center for Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect found that 47 per cent of dementia caregivers were mistreated by their loved ones. However, very few family caregivers stepping into the role receive any training to perform their duties which leaves them with insufficient tools to be effective caregivers.
To learn more about caregiver resources and planning for caregiving, visit AARP’s website at http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/planning-and-resources/ .