caregiver stress and elder abuse

Connecting the Dots Between Caregiver Stress and Elder Abuse

The rising cost of elder care and the rising numbers of seniors who wish to remain in their homes are turning the tides away from institutional care and towards home and community-based care. According to the National Aging in Place Council, over 90% of senior citizens prefer to age in place.

While the movement towards home care for the elderly makes seniors happier and more comfortable during their golden years, the change also creates some new concerns over caregiver stress and elder abuse.

Did you know that there is common ground with the types of circumstances that make the environment ripe for elder abuse? Did you know that there are different types of elder abuse? Here’s how it can happen, and more importantly how to get help.

We will cover in this article:

The Road to Caregiver Burnout

Today’s caregivers for the elderly are more likely to be family members than nursing home staff.

Typically, it’s not just a single caregiving task that drives a senior caregiver to feel stressed and burned out. Rather, it’s the culmination of many duties such as:

  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Bathing
  • Administering medications
  • Transporting to appointments and errands
  • Handling expenses

In addition to providing care for activities of daily living, aging seniors also need their caregivers to provide companionship and socialization, either by providing it directly or by getting them out into the community.


Caring for the elderly compounds the caregiver’s normal everyday stressors. Chronic fatigue makes it difficult to eat well, get exercise, and recharge with a restful sleep. Irritability and edginess lead to caregiver burnout, and that places aging seniors at risk of abuse and neglect.It is highly recommended it that the caregiver find some self-care activities that will allow her to renew herself such as yoga, write a journal, etc.

Elder Abuse: It’s Not Just Physical

Elder abuse isn’t always easily recognizable. You will detect it more easily when you know what to look for. Aging seniors are susceptible to many kinds of abuse including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal, emotional, or psychological abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse or exploitation
  • Neglect

elder abuse

Caregiver Stress and Elder Abuse: Connecting the Dots

Past relationship patterns, caregiver stress, and unfamiliarity with elder care practices combine to create the perfect storm for the potential for elder abuse.

If elders and their family caregivers didn’t have a healthy relationship prior to entering into the elder caregiving relationship, the family dysfunction may exacerbate to the point of a family member taking out frustrations on a helpless, elderly parent. This type of situation holds even more potential for abuse when the adult caregiver financially depends upon the senior and feels resentment for having to provide care.

If a spouse experienced verbal or physical abuse during the marriage, the caregiving spouse might use the caregiving season as an opportunity for vengeance.

In the beginning, many family caregivers feel capable of caring for an elderly loved one. As their loved one’s health deteriorates, they often find that trying to do it alone is a struggle, which causes stress and frustration. Feeling a duty to care for an aging parent, caregivers often refuse to accept help, even when it’s offered.

As caregiving demands increase, the family caregiver feels increasingly isolated. With the caregiver having no accountability—intentionally or unintentionally, the aging senior becomes at risk of being abused. A good option will be look for help such a support group of caregivers

For family caregivers that do enlist the help from a caregiver agency, the senior that needs care may be at risk of abuse by the come-and–go or live-in caregiver.

In still other cases, the elder may be abusive to the caregiver, which is a stressful situation for the caregiver that might cause lashing out in anger or frustration.

In any of these types of situations, either because they are stressed or exhausted, caregivers for the elderly may fail to perform crucial caregiving duties, setting the stage for neglect.

Care for the Caregiver

There is plenty of support available for caregivers for the elderly when you know where to look. The Area Agencies on Aging will direct you to the elder care resources in your community where you can learn more about your journey through senior caregiving and get help from a caregiver agency.

Most areas offer senior centers, where seniors gather for meals and recreation. Senior centers give caregivers the opportunity to take a break. Many senior centers also serve as a linkage to other senior services like caregiver agencies, respite, caregiver counseling and caregiver support groups.

Final Thoughts on Caregiver Stress and Elder Abuse

While you may not be able to change the state of your elder’s health, you can make sure that your loved one is cared for and safe. Find the senior resources in your community and be willing to accept help when needed. The key to reducing elder abuse is managing caregiver stress and trying to balance the everyday life with the caregiver duties