Elders Who Abuse Their Family Caregivers
Most of us have seen evidence of people being harder on those they love than they are on strangers, or even people they don’t like. We tend to show our family members every side of ourselves, including the least flattering ones, because we feel safe enough with them to just “let it all hang out.”
This typically holds true for our care recipients as well. Age and illness bring a host of difficult emotions to the surface for seniors, and caregivers are subjected to their anger, fear, frustration and sadness regarding their circumstances. For some, though, there are deeper problems lurking behind an elder’s moodiness and outbursts. These feelings may turn into abusive behavior or exacerbate an already abusive personality.
We’ve all heard about the dangers of elder abuse, but there is an equally serious issue of abuse toward caregivers that goes largely unaddressed. Sadly, caregiver abuse is all too common.
Why Do Elders Turn on Their Caregivers? I believe that care recipients target the people providing most of their care because they feel safe enough to do so. They are frustrated and need to vent about getting old, living with chronic pain, losing friends, forgetting things, being incontinent—all of the undignified things that can happen to us as we age. They turn on the person who shows their love by trying to take care of them because, on a gut level, they trust that this caring person won’t leave them no matter how badly they behave.
In other cases, a caregiver may have been a target of criticism and negativity in the past. For example, if an abusive elderly mother has been hateful to their child for much of their life, it is very likely that this toxic behavior will carry over into caregiving. Mental illness or a personality disorder (like narcissistic personality disorder) may be to blame. If other family members have decided that they do not wish to participate in the elder’s care, it complicates things further. There is a great deal of pressure on one primary caregiver to shoulder the burden of care and abusive behavior, and coping is an ongoing challenge.
How to Cope With Caregiver Abuse: When it comes to handling an aging loved one’s abuse, the best option is to remove yourself from the situation. But for many caregivers, that is not a possibility. Other family members may not be willing or able to assist. Some families may not be receptive or understanding when a caregiver is the one being abused. The family might lack…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
Support a caregiver or jump-start discussion in support groups with real stories – for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol