Alzheimer’s is a tragic disease that forever changes the lives of the afflicted and their families. Currently in America there are about five million people who have Alzheimer’s and millions more who are affected by the disease. Though those who are affected by Alzheimer’s are very vulnerable and require a lot of assistance, they are also at a much higher risk for abuse than other elderly populations.
In order to protect the elderly with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases, communities must work together to stop Alzheimer’s abuse and keep their loved ones safe. Currently there are a few risk factors that increase the chance of Alzheimer’s abuse. These risk factors should be carefully monitored, so that family members and others can pay more attention to those who are most at risk.
The location where an elderly person with Alzheimer’s lives can be a significant risk factor for abuse. Those who live with family, in nursing homes, and in Alzheimer’s care facilities all have different levels of risk. Though it may seem strange, the elderly who live with their families are actually most at risk of abuse. This is due to a number of reasons.
The abuse by family members is not always intentional. Individuals with Alzheimer’s require extreme amounts of daily attention and care. Some people who don’t have medical experience are unable to provide the care that’s necessary and unintentionally neglect or abuse the person with Alzheimer’s. They may also lack the time because of school or work commitments. Also, family members may not be able to handle the stress of the situation and then act abusively out of frustration.
In some living situations, family members may be abusive to the elderly because they feel like they can do so without any consequences. People who have Alzheimer’s and live with family members are very vulnerable and have little contact with others, so family may feel like they can safely take out frustrations on them.
In contrast, individuals with Alzheimer’s who live in nursing homes have a lower risk of abuse than those who live with families. Still, there is a serious risk of abuse even in nursing homes, and similar to family members, nursing staff may feel like they can abuse these populations with Alzheimer’s because they are so vulnerable.
Alzheimer’s Care Facilities are special wards within nursing homes that have been specifically created for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. These facilities have staff specially trained for caring for these patients, so the risk for abuse is lower than in other environments.
The more severe a patient’s Alzheimer’s is, the greater the risk that they will suffer abuse. Caregivers are more likely to inflict abuse when the person is unable to retaliate or report what is going on. Individuals who have late stage Alzheimer’s have a lot of difficulty communicating and reporting abuse to others, so they are most at risk of abuse. Individuals who are in an early stage of the disease are still quite functional and independent, and so fewer caregivers would risk being abusive towards them.
Characteristics of the caregiver can also increase the risk of abuse. For example, family members who are unemployed or suffering from drug addiction are more likely to abuse the individual financially and in other ways. Caregivers who are over-stressed or have difficulty controlling their anger also have a greater risk of abusing an elderly person with Alzheimer’s.
Taking care of a person with Alzheimer’s is incredibly difficult. As their Alzheimer worsens, their behavior may become more erratic, aggressive, and violent. Unless a caregiver has their own support structure in place, it can be very difficult to care for their family member without feeling frustration, anger, and resentment.
“Abuse.” Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Association, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-elder-abuse.asp
“Elder Abuse.” Alzheimer’s Society Canada. Alzheimer’s Society Canada, 31 Aug 2012. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Living-with-dementia/Day-to-day-living/Safety/Elder-abuse>.
“Statistics/Data.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.asp&xgt;.