There’s several news articles making the rounds about seniors being abused or neglected by those who have been entrusted with their care. These abusers have been both family members and staff at nursing/care facilities.
First of all, I will say that I find it incomprehensible that anyone would harm someone in their care. I know there are times of frustration when dealing with dementia, I KNOW! Take it from someone who has had to clean up smeared feces, answered the same question 500,000 times, been cussed out, been swung upon, kicked and heard a story more times than a toddler watching their favorite cartoon dvd. For all of this, I KNOW this person isn’t doing it on purpose, they have a disease. Do we blame a cancer patient for having a bald head? Do we blame a child with chicken pox for itching? No, this is a part of the journey. This is part of the disease or treatment.
Whenever I hear the stories of elder abuse I feel angry on behalf of the person who has been abused, I feel for them because they often cannot defend themselves. I try to educate to help understand dementia and preach patience.
I also fear that mainstream media will paint all caregivers with the same brush. The vast majority of us are out doing a job that includes; long hours, low pay, hard work, taking care of messes that would have others vomiting, holding hands of lonely elders, loving people who aren’t related to us, all because we want to make a difference. We do this because we care about our elders, it is important for us that they’re loved and safe.
I will be the first to admit that there’s rotten apples in the barrel. Sometimes it’s a family member who feels that they’ve been forced into the position of caregiver and resents it. Sometimes it’s a family member that thinks it’s a chance to get a hold of Grandma or Grandpa’s money. Sometimes it’s someone who thinks it’s an easy to work at a nursing home and aren’t mentally prepared for the scope of the job. Sometimes it’s a good person who’s just overworked by a facility that has no legal boundaries of how many residents they can pile on each caregiver.
However it happens, the only way to stop it is through education.
Each state has elder abuse hotlines. Every person working in the medical field as well as police officers are mandatory reporters. This means if we see abuse or suspect abuse we are required to report it.
At the same time, anyone can report potential abuse to your state’s hotline.
More community help for at-home caregivers could help alleviate caregiver stress.
More legislation requiring nursing/care facilities to lower their resident to caregiver ratios will allow for caregivers to have sufficient time to care and reduce their stress as well. There is a huge number of compassionate, loving caregivers who burned out and left the field entirely because they were crushed by the amount of residents they were assigned each shift.
No one is perfect, nor is there a perfect world. We all do the best we can.
For those who choose to abuse, neglect and harm our honored seniors, I have only this to say:
Be careful how you treat the weak, infirm and vulnerable – for one day you will be weak, infirm and vulnerable, and karma’s a bitch!