This is my Mom in happier times. The Montreal Gazette presented an article recently, on the topic of elder abuse. It is a very real and very disturbing trend.
Root causes need to be addressed. The stress of the primary caregivers is very complex. In many cases it is the child of the elder in the position of primary caregiver. Not only is caring for the elderly a challenging role but when the elder is a parent, the psychological impact cannot be under-estimated. This person was a parent – the giver of strength. The role model. To watch such a person ill or perhaps suffering from the destruction of self that is dementia is beyond comprehension. It, truly, is something that you have to experience to understand.
Financial abuse is theft – there is no root cause other than a despicable personality at work; so I’m not going to bother with that other than to say, anyone who rips off an elder person is a thief and deserves to go to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect that $200 that isn’t theirs’. Slime.
The psychological abuse of elders is much more destructive. This is something that can be addressed. I would think, more often than not, that abuse is born of stress.
My mother came to live with us, following the death of my father. I am a very lucky woman; my husband is a rock so that the stress of caring for her as she became ill was not something I had to bear alone. He was my eagle eye; he knew when I was starting to come apart and would insist that I go for a walk, take a break. Watching my mother become so frail, watching her in pain and witness her sharp mind being to fail was horrendous. It was heartbreaking, soul wrenching. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for someone without my support system.
If someone in your family is the primary caregiver to an elder parent/sibling/relative; there are ways you can help to prevent elder abuse. Don’t wait until it happens to mount your soapbox. Because? If it happens? You are just as culpable.
Take the elder relative out for lunch, give the caregiver a break. Have the elder relative over for an afternoon, take them shopping or to a movie. If they are too ill to go out; then go over for a few hours allowing the caregiver to decompress, shower…get a haircut…do some shopping.
Go over and do some housekeeping, particularly where the elder relative lives.
Take over a doctor or hospital appointment or three….
Take the elder relative for a drive.
Give the caregiver some personal time; allow them to process what is going on in this new role, in which they find themselves. The gift of time to themselves, away from the worry, the constant monitoring of medications, the cleaning, the heartbreak…this is the root core. Caregivers are 24/7. When you are home, watching television, scrolling the ‘net? The caregiver is on high alert for any sound. Their sleep is light. They are constantly going over mental lists of medications and times, doctor appointments, worrying about the emotional health of the relative as well as physical. Trying to come up with new ways to ease the life of the elder. Worrying about future challenges; studying safety technologies – elder proofing their homes. Worry is their state of being. Fear is their companion.
The caregiver needs care as well, in order to be the best they can be for their Mom/Dad/brother/sister. There is a way to stem the tide of elder abuse; attack that root cause. Be the support system for the person who stepped up and took charge. They need our help.