Elder bullying by caregivers comes in many forms


By Doug Peck

One of the hardest things to see is a senior being bullied and yet I see instances of it, to varying degrees, with increasing frequency. Bullying can be defined as harassment, maltreatment or even singling out. It usually doesn’t include any physical abuse or threats when directed towards seniors.

When it is directed towards seniors I have noticed two things. One, it is often done by family members. Two, it’s not necessarily intentional. They often aren’t aware of what they are doing or how it hurts the senior. Let me give you two real life examples.

When sitting down to talk with both the senior and family member about what mom would like to do with a new companion, where she would like to visit, what restaurants she would like to go to, etc., the son barely gives his mother an opportunity to speak and when she does voice an opinion, it is quickly disregarded with few sharp words. Comments such as “she’s never asked us to take her to the library before. I don’t think she would like that,” are made and yet one can clearly see a look of disappointment on mom’s face.

In another instance where mom lives with her daughter, who works fulltime, often two, and three doctor’s appointments are crammed into one day. The day may start at home with an 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. physical therapy session. This is a very early hour for someone who is 90 because it takes that person awhile to get up and get dressed. The day is too exhausting with all of this activity.

Are these acts done intentionally? I don’t think so. We all live in a very busy world where it is often necessary to get as much done as quickly as possible. But whether they are done intentionally or not, they have the same effect. When opinions are dismissed out of hand, when comments are made as if the other person is not even there, when planned activities lead to exhaustion, that’s bullying.

It is very difficult to watch and even more difficult to try and stop as the person doing it is often not aware of the consequences. So what can a caregiver do? When taking care of an elderly parent in the home, apply these axioms: Do to others, as you would have them do to you; and treat others in the way they like to be treated.

Watch what you say and how you say it.

Most importantly, make sure to give yourself a break. Being a caregiver does not mean you have to do everything yourself. Have a neighbor, friend or a paid caregiver relieve you on a regular basis. Treat yourself to lunch, a movie or even a few quiet hours in the library. It will be better for everyone.

Doug Peck, CSA, is owner of Seniors Helping Seniors, in Southborough. He can be reached at 508-485-1765. Visit their website at www.seniorshelpingseniors.com/metrowest. He can be reached at kindnessworksllc@gmail.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read on fiftyplusadvocate.com.