How can I be sure my dad’s caregiver isn’t mistreating him or taking his things?

May 20, 2013

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.

For other Q&A related to Long Distance Caregiving, click here.

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