Abuse of Dementia Patients by Carers Is Common

Half of family carers admit some abusive behavior
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- It is common for people with dementia to be abused by family carers, most often with verbal abuse, although frequent and physical abuse seems to be rare, according to the results of a study published online Jan. 22 in BMJ.

Claudia Cooper, Ph.D., and colleagues at University College London in the United Kingdom, identified 220 family carers of people with dementia via community health teams, and surveyed them on incidence of both psychological and physical abuse of their demented relatives.

In all, 115 (52 percent) of the carers reported that they had engaged in some abusive behavior, and 74 (34 percent) of them reported important levels of abuse, the researchers found. The most commonly reported form of abuse was verbal, such as screaming or yelling at the care recipient, but three carers (1.4 percent) reported occasional physical abuse, the investigators note.

"We suggest that any policy for safeguarding vulnerable adults must consider strategies directed towards families who provide the majority of care for older people, rather than exclusively formal carers," the authors write. "Considering elder abuse as a spectrum of behavior rather than an 'all or nothing' phenomenon could help professionals to feel more able to ask about it and therefore offer appropriate help."

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