Skip to main content

Patient Abuse: A Caregiver Perspective

  • Synopsis: Published: 2012-06-21 (Rev. 2016-03-03) - A caregiver may become abusive without any real recognition of the fact that they are. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Wendy Taormina-Weiss at Disabled World.
Caregiving

Caregiving - (Carer - UK, NZ, Australian) - Can be defined as 1 - An individual, such as a parent, foster parent, or head of a household, who attends to the needs of a child or dependent adult. 2 - An individual, such as a physician, nurse, or social worker, who assists in the identification, prevention, or treatment of an illness or disability.

Main Document

Quote: "The frustrations caretakers feel can be overwhelming if they find themselves as the sole care provider for a loved one, or if they have little training or experience in the provision of care for an elder with a disability such as Alzheimer's disease."

Caring for others can be very demanding and more people in America are finding themselves providing care for loved ones as the baby boom generation continues to age.

People with Alzheimer's are among those who are most vulnerable to abuse by those who are closest to them, often times people who have received little to no training in how to provide care. They can also experience abuse at the hands of complete strangers who take advantage of the cognitive impairment they experience.

Caregivers, whether they are family members or professionals, are most often the people involved in instances of abuse of those who require care. Frustration or stress might provoke violent feelings that are quite unintentional in caregivers, leading to abuse. Family members who provide care might feel depressed, isolated, or even resentful towards the loved one they are providing care for and the disability their loved one experiences.

A caregiver may become abusive without any real recognition of the fact that they are. Seemingly endless days of providing care for another person can wear on a person, leading to unintentional neglect and other types of abuse. Issues such as emotional problems and substance abuse can also lead to the abuse of people who require care from others.

Where facilities such as long-term care or assisted living facilities and abuse are concerned, certain controls are in place with the goal of preventing elder abuse. One of the most obvious of these is the plain fact that there are more people around, along with more eyes watching out for those who need care. Federal and State laws, regulations, and company policies all exist with the intention of preventing elder abuse.

In long-term care or assisted living facilities, the people who provide care are just as human as anyone else in society. They make mistakes, as well as feeling the entire range of emotions everyone else in the world does. In some cases, people pursue a career related to providing care, only to discover that it really doesn't fit them well.

For example; over the years work in these facilities has found more than one person becoming so frustrated they have actually yelled at a person who requires care. Yelling at a person who is in a facility to receive care is emotional abuse. In another example, some people have found themselves becoming so depressed or frustrated that they have actually walked off their care providing job - something that is considered to be, 'abandonment,' or neglect. In both of these examples, the people mentioned have been turned into the State and are not eligible to work in long-term care or assisted living again.

Types of Elder Abuse

A number of types of abuse exist and are recognized by Federal and State government, as well as various organizations that support Seniors. From a caregiver perspective, the following types of abuse are the ones that are the most obvious. While some of these types of abuse are clear and blatant violations of the person who is receiving care, others are perpetuated on the part of the care provider at times without them even recognizing they are doing it.

Physical Abuse: Physical abuse involves causing a person physical injury or pain.

Confinement:Confinement is the isolation or restraint of a person who requires care from another person.

Emotional Abuse:Emotional abuse involves threats of abuse, verbal assaults, intimidation, or harassment.

Neglect: Neglect is the failure to provide a person who needs care with the things they need such as medical care, clothing, food, or shelter.

Financial Abuse:Financial abuse involves the withholding or misuse of the resources of a person who requires care from another person to their disadvantage, or the advantage of another person.

Willful Deprivation: Willful deprivation is the willful denial of medical care, medication, shelter, food, or physical assistance to a person who needs care which exposes the person who needs care to the risk of mental, physical, or emotional harm.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse involves the fondling, touching, or any sexual activity with a person who needs care from someone else when the person who needs care does not have the ability to consent to sexual activity, understand it, or is physically forced into the act or is threatened.

Frustrations, Money, and Time

The frustrations caretakers feel can be overwhelming if they find themselves as the sole care provider for a loved one, or if they have little training or experience in the provision of care for an elder with a disability such as Alzheimer's disease. When family members, or even people who work as care providers in long-term care or assisted living facilities, reach the point where they are highly-frustrated with providing care, the potential for types of abuse to begin approaches. Most often, abuse begins with things such as skipping the time to roll a person over in bed, a medication time (willful deprivation), not getting a person out of bed and putting them into their wheelchair (confinement), or even neglecting someone by refusing to answer when they call for help.

When a person who has been receiving their care from a family member reaches the point where they need care from a more structured environment such as a long-term care or assisted living facility, family members who are frustrated or depressed may make decisions that are abusive as well. Family members might make financial decisions for their loved one that comprise financial abuse. For example; a family member may sell a loved one's home and then spend a portion of the money on their own personal desires instead of on the care of their loved one. In another example, a family member may drain the bank account of a loved one they have been providing care for and spend the money on things they want, instead of the interests of their loved one.

People who work as caregivers in facilities who do things like this find themselves not only unemployed, but reported to the State and even the police department depending on the extent of the abuse. If a caregiver who works in a facility steals items from a person they are providing care for such as rings, money, or other items - the results are the same. Perceived needs for money, time, and personal frustrations can find caregivers who work in facilities doing things they would never consider otherwise.

Solutions for Caregivers

Family members who provide care for loved ones and experience difficulties with stress, frustrations, depression and other hardships related to providing care need to reach for assistance. Help is available through a number of organizations, as well as through a counselor or a clergy member. If at all possible, it is very important not to attempt to provide care for another person on a 24/7 basis.

Family members who provide care for loved ones need to reach for other members of the family and friends to give them a break from providing care, even if it is only for a few hours. If a longer break from providing care can be arranged it is important to take that time, relax, and enjoy yourself. Remember that you have health care needs as well and attend to them. Also remember that long-term care and assisted living facilities many times offer respite care.

People who provide care for others in facilities often times find themselves working overtime, different shifts, as well as weekends. People who need care from others need that care every day, all the time; the provision of care never stops. In facilities, there are simply more people to provide that care, yet a lack of fellow employees, caregivers who are sick or injured, or caregivers who are just on vacation can lead to a lack of adequate numbers of people to provide care for others.

When the pressure of providing care becomes too much it is vital to ask your employer for some time off and then take that time to relax. It is important for every caregiver; whether they are a family member or someone who works in a long-term care or assisted living facility, to take good care of themselves. If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot provide adequate care for others.

Related Information:

  1. The Challenges of Caregiving and Solutions - Providing care for others can be stressful and has the potential to contribute to depression and serious illness.
  2. Fact Sheets on Critical Caregiving Issues - FCA new fact sheets detailing critical issues in caregiving and long-term care in the United States.
  3. Respite Care and Family Members - Respite care gives family members and other caregivers short term breaks relieves stress and energy while promoting balance in their lives.




Information from our Caregivers: Services & Information for Carers section - (Full List).


     What will I receive?

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be. Also see information on blood group types and compatibility.


  1. Special Unit: Action Comedy Film Led By Cast of Actors with Disabilities
  2. Can Adults Develop ADHD?
  3. OHEL Diverse Programs for Children and Adults with Disabilities
  4. Fear of Hostility Prevents Many Disabled People From Going Out




Citation