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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Monday, April 20, 2020

When Caregivers Are Abused: Setting Boundaries with Your Aging Loved One

We often discuss elderly abuse and nursing home abuse. However, caregiver abuse is also a serious problem for many individuals and families throughout the country. Elderly or incapacitated family members abuse their caregivers physically, verbally, or emotionally. Caregivers may excuse the behavior as a side-effect or symptom of an illness or medication, but this is not always the case. Our California estate planning attorney examines how caregivers can set boundaries with their loved ones to prevent caregiver abuse.

What Is Causing the Abusive Behavior?

Some elderly individuals are unable to control their angry outbursts, actions, or words. They may have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions that prevent them from realizing what they are doing. Certain medications may also play a factor in anger, outbursts, and caregiver abuse.

However, some elderly individuals are lashing out and they are aware of their actions and words. In those instances, caregivers must set healthy boundaries with their loved ones to protect themselves from being abused as a caregiver. If a caregiver is abused, the caregiver may reach a point at which he or she can no longer take care of an abusive family member.

The first step is recognizing that you are the victim of abuse. The fact that your family member is elderly is not an excuse for his or her abusive behavior. The second step is to realize that you must protect yourself from this abuse. You deserve the same respect as your family member. The abuse may be the result of one or more factors. Some factors that could lead an aging loved one to become abusive include, but are not limited to:

  • Certain mental disorders or mental illnesses
  • Certain health conditions
  • Medications
  • Physical pain
  • Depression or emotional distress
  • Memory loss or dementia
  • Substance abuse
  • Personality disorders

In some cases, it might just be the individual’s personality that is the issue. It can be helpful to seek professional help from a physician, counselor, or therapist. Your loved one may need professional help. Remember, you may also benefit from professional help.

Tips for Setting Boundaries with Aging or Elderly Loved Ones

It can be very difficult for an adult child to set boundaries with an aging or elderly parent or other family member. It does not seem natural to take on the role of “parent” for your parents or other adult family members. However, it is necessary to stop the abuse.

Some tips for setting boundaries include:

Detach yourself emotionally from the situation.

It can be difficult, but stop allowing your loved one to control your emotions. Realize that you cannot satisfy this person, regardless of what you do, so just meet their basic needs. When your loved one realizes he or she cannot “push your buttons,” the abuse may subside. It is similar to dealing with a child who learns your triggers and uses those triggers to gain an emotional reaction from you.

Make other arrangements for care.

If the abuse continues, you may need to arrange for another person to care for your loved one. Arranging for another caregiver does not mean you need to walk away. It simply means you need someone else to take on the role of the caregiver so that you can leave when the abuse begins.

Stand up for yourself.

Firmly tell your loved one that the behavior is unacceptable, and you cannot and will not stay if the behavior continues. Be prepared to leave or take a day away to prove you are serious about standing up for yourself and taking care of yourself.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney to Discuss Your Estate Plans

It can be difficult to consider the possibility that you might one day need assisted living or nursing home care. A California estate planning attorney can help you develop an estate plan that includes long-term care planning so that you are ready for any eventuality. Contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Horizon Law today.


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