Bloomfield Hills, MI (Law Firm Newswire) July 8, 2013 - A recent study found that there is an increased likelihood of elder abuse when the elder has cognitive decline and their primary caregiver is a family member.
In a new study, researchers at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey looked at a group of patients with dementia to see if cognitive decline was associated with an increased risk of physical abuse by caregivers.
"Elder abuse by caregivers is known to be an underreported issue," commented Michigan elder law attorney Christopher J. Berry. "It seems that helping caregivers avoid burnout and depression can only help everyone involved."
More than 1,000 caregivers of individuals with dementia, including Alzheimer's and other cognitive decline diseases, were surveyed anonymously for this study. The demographics of the patients under their care were noted, as were the demographics of the caregivers. Instances of abusive behavior were catalogued, and the caregivers were further interviewed and surveyed. Though the study resulted in just 341 complete questionnaires, enough data was taken, the researchers felt, to determine some basic statistics.
More than fifty percent of the caregivers surveyed were the adult children of elderly adults who needed care; one-third of the caregivers were in charge of their spouse, and just over eight percent were caring for some other relative.
Approximately twelve percent of caregivers admitted that they had been physically abusive to the patient in their care, either by pinching, biting, kicking, shoving or striking the victim. The caregivers who reported this behavior had typically been providing care for a low-functioning adult for a number of years and charted "high" on the depression scale, compared the caregivers who reported that they did not express abusive behavior. One-third of all caregivers also reported that the patient had at one or more times directed abusive behavior to the caregiver in the course of care. Caregivers who reported that they had experienced abuse by the patient were more likely to abuse the patient back.
The authors of the study stated in The American Journal of Psychiatry that their results indicated that caregiver abuse of cognitively impaired seniors was likely attributable to the emotional and physical toll on caregivers, especially when they are a family member of the patient.
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