#15 – How can I be sure my father’s caregiver isn’t mistreating him or taking his things?

Click here to see the prior item in this series:  I’m going with my dad on his medical appointment.  How can I make the most of this visit with his doctor?

How can I be sure my father’s caregiver isn’t mistreating him or taking his things? Everything has been fine so far, but I’m worried that if Dad’s memory deteriorates, something might happen.

From a distance, it can be hard to assess the quality of your father’s caregivers. Ideally, if there is a primary caregiver on the scene, he or she can keep tabs on how things are going. Perhaps you have already identified friends or neighbors who can stop in unannounced to be your eyes and ears. Sometimes, a geriatric care manager can help.

You can stay in touch with your father by phone and take note of any comments or mood changes that might indicate neglect or mistreatment. These can happen in any setting, at any socioeconomic level.  Abuse can take many forms, including domestic violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, theft, and basic neglect.

Sometimes the abuser is a hired caregiver, but other times it is someone your father knows. The stress that may happen when adult children care for their aging parents or when another older adult, like a spouse or sibling, is a caregiver can take a toll on everyone. In some families, abuse continues a long-standing family pattern. In others, the older adult’s need for constant care can cause a caregiver to lash out verbally or physically. In some cases, especially in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the older adult may become  difficult to manage and physically aggressive, causing harm to the caregiver. This might cause a caregiver to respond angrily. But no matter who is the abuser or what is the cause, abuse and neglect are never acceptable responses.

If you feel that your parent is in physical danger, contact the authorities right away. If you suspect abuse, but do not feel there is an immediate risk, contact someone who can act on your behalf: your parent’s doctor, for instance, or your contact at a home health agency.  Suspected abuse must be reported to adult protective services.

Click here to see the next item in this series:  What are the signs of self-neglect?

Acorn wishes to acknowledge the National Institute on Aging for this valuable content.


Within Acorn’s service area of Chapel Hill, Durham and surrounding areas in North Carolina (Hillsborough, Pittsboro, Morrisville, Cary, and Apex) the following resources may be especially helpful:

  • Orange County Department on Aging, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, (919) 968-2070
  • Durham Center for Senior Life, 406 Rigsbee Avenue – Suite 202, Durham, North Carolina   27701, (919) 688-8247
  • Chatham County Council on Aging, 365 North Carolina 87, Pittsboro, North Carolina   27312, (919) 542-4512
  • Triangle J Area Agency on Aging, 4307 Emperor Boulevard
- Suite 110, Durham, NC 27703, 919-558-2711
  • Resources for Seniors (Wake County), 1110 Navaho Dr.  – Suite 400, Raleigh, NC 27609, 919-872-7933