While there is no doubt that some elderly patients are abused, some are the abuser. Some individuals in our society seem to be less inclined to believe that sometimes the abuser may be the chronically ill patient. Abusive behaviors are not limited to elderly patients. Any psychiatric technician or nurse could share stories of abusive patients of all ages. These are patients who spit, throw objects, scream at those trying to assist them or at other patients, make unreasonable demands, and defy staff and/or family caregivers at every turn. Similarly, some patients display out-of-control behaviors, including assault and bodily harm. You have the right and responsibility to protect yourself. In the long run, protecting yourself may, in the end, be protecting your loved one, due to your willingness to carry on.


Unappreciated – This tragic scenario shouldn’t be occurring, but it is. And, the caregiver is stuck with it. That is, unless something changes. And if the patient is not willing to change, then the caregiver must do so. Initially, it may consist of ignoring the wrongful acts and words. That may not be pleasant, and will most likely be emotionally tiring. But remember, as difficult as it may be for the caregiver, it is also difficult for the patient who may be in physical or even emotional pain. It isn’t fair, it isn’t easy, but a change is still necessary. Change could benefit both of you.


Mistreated – Disheartened would be the word to describe my surprise at reading of so many caregivers pushed around. If you are caught in one of these low-spirited relationships you need to initiate some very specific and immediate change. It may require the help of others to assist in the change, but change you must. Your patient should not be allowed to mistreat you for offering loving assistance. Not only is it of low character but, in most cases, it will be a retardant to the proper evolution of both his health and yours. It may require courage and the initial steps may be difficult. But that kind of treatment does not have to be tolerated. However, as a word of caution, it should be remembered some diseases render the individual not responsible for his or her actions.

Unrequited—When the patient doesn’t return love and appreciation to a caregiver, it presents a very difficult and different kind of challenge for a caregiver. It really is possible for those with the illness to be kinder, more considerate, and appreciative of the care they are receiving. So, why aren’t they? There are many reasons an ill loved one may be lost in this dark place of anger, unhappiness, and depression. And often, the caregiver is the only person around for the loved one to express his emotions. Try and keep an open, non-judgmental line of communication with the loved ones. Ask questions about how they feel and why. Listen to them and understand their point of view without being defensive or judgmental. Maybe your loved one just needs to feel understood. Maybe he or she needs attention that goes beyond the physical tasks of caregiving. Maybe that person needs a friend and to feel more patience from the caregiver. Maybe he or she feels unable to love because of illness. Counseling from a professional might help your loved one reach a happier place in his life.

Unkind Conduct – Far too many caregivers, frustrated by the unkind and often abusive conduct of their loved ones, talk about the unnatural treatment they regularly receive at the hands of their loved one.  Dedicated to the medical care and serving as best they know how, these wonderful caregivers are torn between the love they feel (or have felt) and the unseemly behavior of the ones they are trying to please.  They speak of abusive, nasty, unthankful uncomplimentary, comments and accusations. This contrast between their caring service and the abusive behavior of their loved one is hard to understand, let alone accept.


Forgiveness - What may be missing in many of those relationships, if not all of them, is forgiveness. It is hard to forgive another person who is mistreating you. It is hard to forgive and forget when your heart is aching and your body and mind are fatigued. But, your forgiveness can change your attitude, as well as your loved one’s attitude. Forgiveness will enable you to work past the unkind behavior, even if your loved one’s doesn’t change. However, it is likely there will be a change for the better.  If so, you will probably have earned the change by your new attitude.