Caregivers face incredibly stressful situations on a daily basis. However, elder abuse is also common. Unfortunately, caregiver stress and elder abuse sometimes go hand in hand. Elder abuse is vastly understudied and underreported in the United States, but the reality is that much of the abuse that the elderly sustain is perpetrated by their caregivers. Here, we want to discuss the link between caregiver stress and elder abuse.
Prevalence of Familial Elder Abuse
The National Council on Aging says that one out of every ten people over the age of 60 experience elder abuse each year in the US. When most people think of elder abuse, they think of these actions occurring in a long-term care facility. However, in many cases, the perpetrators of elder abuse are family members of the elderly.
This is not something that any observer expects, and familial elder abuse can be hard to detect. The signs and symptoms may not be obvious, and the elderly person who is experiencing the abuse may be reluctant to report it. Familial elder abuse can be perpetrated by a spouse, siblings, adult children, and other relatives who have access to the elderly person.
How Stress Contributes to Elder Abuse
While the overwhelming majority of caregivers provide appropriate care and support for their elderly relative, caregiving does create stresses that affect both the caregivers and the people they care for. These stresses could trigger abusive responses from the caregiver towards the elderly person.
According to the American Psychological Association, caregiver stress (both caused by the caregiving and by outside stressors) presents significant risks of abuse and neglect. This, coupled with what is often a lack of training and preparedness of the caregiver, can lead to disastrous situations.
Self-Care for Caregivers
Caregivers are important, and they are allowed to feel stressed. However, caregivers need to recognize stress and take time to alleviate it. Caregivers can avoid undue stress and burnout by:
- Using community resources to help with the care. This could include daytime adult daycares, Meals on Wheels, local caregiver support groups, and more.
- Taking a break from caregiving. Ask other family members for temporary help. Go to the movies, take a walk, meet with some friends for lunch. If possible, take a short vacation and leave your loved one in the care of a trusted friend or family member.
- Taking care of your personal health. As a caregiver, you also need to keep yourself healthy. Go to the doctor, keep your routine exams, get enough sleep, and eat well.
- Forgiving yourself. You cannot be a perfect caregiver all day, everyday. Realize this, and forgive yourself.
You can get mad, but practice anger management. If you feel yourself getting angry, take a short break and walk away. This is a stressful job, but do not let it trigger abuse.
When to Call a West Virginia Elder Abuse Lawyer
If you suspect that someone you love and care about has been the victim of elder abuse, the time to act is now. You should contact a West Virginia elder abuse attorney as soon as possible about your case. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, we are ready to help. Our qualified, experienced team has the resources necessary to conduct a full investigation into the allegations of abuse and hold any perpetrators accountable for their actions. Our goal is to secure the compensation and justice your loved one deserves.