Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Do Elders Abuse The Relatives Who Are Taking Care of Them?

I know I talk a lot about articles I read, but there's such good information available on topics that I'm concerned about that I try to share many of the gems I find. As I've mentioned before, Carol Bradley Bursack is a go-to author for me. She's a former caregiver of multiple family members across several years, and she just kinda hits the nail on the head for me. This article about caregivers being abused by their care receiver was a hot topic in a recent conversation with some caregiving friends, so I wanted to share it here.

I definitely understand that a care receiver can be tough to live with who is either struggling with dementia or even just struggling with getting old, has a body that is failing, is losing control of their living situation, or is lonely or disappointed with how life has turned out in their old age. That person is afraid, miserable, or even bitter, and of course it shows. Perhaps everyone doesn't see it, though--I've learned firsthand that a loved one can cover the ugliness when company comes around, and they can be just charming to visitors or in short-term situations. People outside the caregiving environment look at the caregiver questioningly as if to say, "They seem sweet to me. Everyone gets cranky when they get old. I would, too, and so would you. They're fine; crankiness is normal." I've learned to expect that kind of comment from outsiders, and I don't try to explain anymore. Other caregivers get it, though. You have to walk in those shoes to understand that when a care receiver's anger or constant criticism is aimed at their caregiver, that caregiver is in for a rough ride.

I could not agree more with Carol's suggestions about how to handle this type of situation. I hope you're not having to deal with anything like this, but I definitely did with my father and had to take some of the steps Carol describes. It helped, and I recommend them if you're in similar circumstances. You can read Carol's article here.

Elders Abusing Their Adult Children Who Are Taking Care of Them

I also recommend finding a good support group in your area. It really does help to hear what other caregivers are experiencing and to collaborate with them on areas where you need some ideas or help. There's a powerful synergy in these support groups, so tap in if you possibly can. Even one day a month helps a lot.

Are you dealing with this kind of situation? Send me a note here and tell me how things are. I'll be glad to listen. Sometimes it helps just to be heard.

Caregiver at Home


  1. Carol's advice about stepping away from the situation is very important. In the circumstances you describe the care receiver has learned to use the behavior to get the response they want from the caregiver. It is very important for other people in the caregivers life to pay attention to what is happening to the caregiver. At times they need to intervene in order to provide space between the caregiver and the care receiver. By removing the caregiver from the care receiver when the behavior occurs the care receiver will eventually learn to stop the behavior. I watched my mom go through this very issue with my dad. I would periodically relieve her or arrange for other family to reliever her. The periods of time would range from a day to a couple of weeks. While the behavior did not stop completely before he died it would at least stop for a period of time after she returned. The important thing here is that while the caregiver is focused on the care receiver other loved ones need to be focused on the welfare of the caregiver.

  2. I agree, Anon. I don't know of anything that works other than this at times. Thank you for posting. ~Joan