Abusive Caregivers

When we hear the word bully, we immediately think of children, but it is a very real problem as well in the senior population. Bullying is defined as a form of aggressive behaviour in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.

We have heard the sad stories of events in Long Term Care Facilities but there is also the real possibility of caregiver bullying for seniors in their own homes. This bullying can be mental, emotional and physical. Caring for an aging parent is not something that adult children are always prepared for, and with the task comes a steep learning curve. There can also be frustration when things don’t fit into the routine. Some people have difficulty tolerating individual differences, lack empathy and struggle with patience.

There are no caregiver tasks that warrant trampling on a care receiver’s feelings in the process of accomplishing them. However, in this fast-paced world, even family can be too hasty in thinking their time is more valuable and struggle when things don’t go their way. Many times, the care receiver may not be able to rush as the caregiver assumes and this can certainly cause agitation to the caregiver.

Caregivers need to learn to “read” the care receiver and try to develop tactics that will work to the advantage of both. When trying to get to doctor appointments, or time sensitive events it’s best to be early to pick up the care receiver and give them lots of time to get ready. They may require more guidance from the caregiver regarding timing, what to wear, what they need to bring etc.

When caregivers “take a breath” they usually realize that they need to slow down and give the care receiver the time and respect they have earned throughout their life. Caregivers need to be careful of aggressive behaviour that can certainly manifest itself with impatience.

This link discusses how the stress of caregiving can lead to abuse.

In their defense the caregiver can become overwhelmed in a situation that they are not prepared for. Many times, they can’t count on support from their siblings or other family members and are left trying to maneuver the situation with little or no guidance.  Some caregivers must quit their jobs or take leaves as the health of the care receiver dictates. They want to stay in their own home and while the caregiver is trying to cope, they also want to do what is best for their loved one. They try to “do the right thing” however there are times the responsibility can become overwhelming. This does not in any way condone abuse, however it hopefully gives us the opportunity to see the challenges from both sides.

As we discuss abuse, we must mention the financial abuse of the senior by their caregiver.  Unfortunately, this is an all too frequent occurrence. The caregiver may be kind and sweet to the care receiver while helping themselves to the senior’s finances. This is a very difficult situation especially when the care receiver is still in their home and even more so if the abuser is a family member. Statistics show that seniors that have had financial struggles through their lives are more of a target for a family member as the family member will likely be struggling financially as well. It’s become easy to justify “Mom has no need for the money”. Sadly, these are not hypothetical scenarios but true facts that are happening to seniors across the country.

A bully is an unhappy person who is looking for a victim to punish. If we feel that a person is being bullied, we must speak up, but the challenge is that family abuse is complicating.  As the observer you can reach out to professional organizations that make home visits such as Meal on Wheels and Home Care organizations who can assist you in helping the care receiver get out of the abusive situation. These professionals are trained to deal with these situations.

This link to family caregiver’s job description has some great advice.

Kindness, compassion and caring can lead us down the right path when it comes to caregiving.