Caregivers lose their cool


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It’s tough caring for someone with dementia, no matter how much you love the person. A study published today in the British Medical Journal suggests that verbal abuse of people with dementia by family members is common and reflects the need to better support caregivers.

Researchers surveyed 220 people who cared at home for a family member with dementia. Just over half of the caregivers reported occasionally screaming or yelling at the patient and 33% reported more significant levels of abuse, such as frequent insulting or swearing at the patient. Only about 1% said they had physically abused the family member.


It’s not surprising that many caregivers occasionally blow up due to fatigue or frustration, said the authors of the report, from University College London. Some caregivers worry about their behavior, they said, adding that doctors should ask caregivers how they are coping in order to prevent abuse of the patient.

Moreover, the study shows abuse of people with dementia doesn’t just occur among unrelated, paid caregivers. ‘Our findings suggest that any strategy for safeguarding vulnerable adults must be directed toward families who provide the majority of care for older people, rather than exclusively at paid carers,’ Dr. Gill Livingston, a co-author of the study, said in a news release.

-- Shari Roan