Seeing or hearing stories about abused seniors is very disturbing . It hits me in general , in the core , because we all will get old and all of us at times have felt vulnerability.
Can you imagine how it feels to be vulnerable and not have the strength to protect oneself–its frightening! The most disturbing thing of all is most elder abuse occurs by someone who has a special relationship with the elderly person.
Domestic elder abuse is the mistreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder ( spouse, sibling, child, friend, or caregiver. ) There is no excuse for mistreating a senior; however, we as a nation must try to understand that caregivers may be at their breaking point and so stressed that they may not see themselves doing some of the things that they have done before they have become caregivers. The care giving experience may have been too long for them or their personality makeup just doesn’t mesh well as a caregiver–not everyone can be a caregiver.
There are signs of Caregiver stress exhibited in general:
Physical changes–Caregivers can have changes in their appetite, gastrointestinal distress, heart problems, muscles tighten , respiratory problems. It is like they are in a constant fight or flight response –can you imagine being in a flight or fight response for years being a caregiver long-term?
Emotional Changes–I have seen caregivers in my experiences cry without cause or become irritable or show anxiety and then laugh uncontrollable at an inappropriate times. Anxiety, anger, indecision are all signs of the stress related to being a caregiver.
Behavioral Signs–One may go into a caregiver’s home and see neglected responsibilities at home, with children or on the job. Lack of personal hygiene or self medication thru drugs or alcohol may occur.
If one sees these signs in a caregiver, one should offer a caregiver a helping hand and/ or support.
There are several resources based on my experiences that one can turn to:
- Hire an in-home health aide
- Utilize a Day Care Service
- Utilize church volunteers
- Get involved in a Support Group
- Utilize a Respite Week(s) at a locale Assisted Living facility
- Have a family meeting where each family member takes turns taking care of the elderly person.
- Utilize the Resources of your local Senior Resource Center
- Seek Alternative Senior Living Options on a permanent basis such as assisted Living or nursing home care –maybe the care is just too much for most people to handle. The disease may have progressed so much that a normal residential home just is not the appropriate place to be. The elderly person may need a 2 person assist or has Alzheimer’s that is progressing to the point that is poising a danger to the care giver and the elderly person .
I hope this post will help you or a loved one when dealing with the stress of being a caregiver.
Abuse of the elderly often goes unreported because many victims don’t think of it as a crime—but it is. People may not get charged with “elder abuse,” but may be charged under state law for crimes such as stealing, battery, causing undo harm, domestic abuse, and other violations. Knowing the signs of abuse and how to report it is the first step in preventing further abuse. If you suspect that an elderly person you know is being harmed physically or emotionally abused or being preyed upon financially, it is important to step in and report the crime.
Please share this information to anyone that may need it and please seek help if you or a loved one becomes overwhelmed so elder abuse is avoided.