Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional and financial, and it has a variety of different causes. One often-overlooked cause of physical elder abuse is stress experienced by caregivers.
Research has found a correlation between caregiver stress and elder abuse. For instance, caregivers who experience depression or feel overwhelmed or unappreciated are more likely to abuse or neglect the elders they care for. In addition, certain behaviors by the one being cared for, such as refusing to eat or take medication, can cause stress and trigger abuse or neglect.
While the vast majority of caregiver relationships are free of abuse and neglect, it is important to be aware that high caregiver stress levels are a potential warning sign. There are services and techniques available to help reduce caregiver stress. Support groups are an important way for caregivers to release stress by sharing feelings. Respite care is also essential for the emotional health of caregivers. Educational resources are also available to assist people providing care for elders.
For an introduction to some of the resources available to caregivers, visit the National Aging Information Resource Center’s webpage on Resources for Caregivers at www.aoa.gov/NAIC/Notes/caregiverresource.html.