Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abusive Elders in Need of Caregivers.

Paula Span wrote a compelling post on The New Old Age Blog for the NY Times  on A Risk in Caring for Abusive Parents.  This is an important topic, but one on which we may not see as much research as we might think.  The topic focuses on the fact that some parents are abusive to their children when their children are small, and, once adults, those children don't interact with their parents. But there may come a time when those parents need a caregiver. So many unpaid caregivers are relatives, so what happens to those elders who were abusive to their children?  Some adult children do become caregivers, but the post notes that we don't have good data on how many of these adult children do become caregivers or don't and the reasons why.

The post references a study by Jooyoung Kong, MSW & Dr. Sara Moorman, an article about which as published in the November 2013 issue of The Gerontologist, Caring for My Abuser: Childhood Maltreatment and Caregiver Depression.  The abstract, which is free, describes the study, the results and implications of which are quoted here :

Results: Persons who had a history of parental abuse showed significantly more frequent depressive symptoms when providing care to their abusive parent(s) compared with caregivers who had not experienced parental abuse. Those who had been neglected had significantly more frequent depressive symptoms than caregivers who did not report neglect. Additionally, the use of emotion-focused coping was more strongly associated with more frequent depressive symptoms among abused caregivers than among caregivers with no history of abuse. Implications: This vulnerable group of caregivers should be recognized in the development and implementation of support services for family caregivers at the state and national levels. In direct practice settings, when assessing caregiver stress and burden, the history of childhood maltreatment needs to be taken into account.

The full article requires a subscription.

Ms. Span notes that the study leaves some questions unanswered: it doesn't measure the length of caregiving and whether the adult child lived with the parent. But it is clear from the study that there are risks to this group of adult caregivers; they have a higher risk of being depressed. As well,  the article mentions that the caregivers need to be aware of the caregiving strain and the possibilities if it becomes too much. 

A prior post on the topic is available here.  Ms. Span concludes her post with this: "[t]he rest of us are hardly in a position to judge those who walk away. But our society’s overreliance on unpaid family caregiving can make that difficult to do. As Dr. Moorman pointed out, 'Not only nice people get old.'”

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