Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Topic: Elder Abuse During the Holidays

An article in the recent news got my attention. It read…Caregiver killed the one who trusted him to provide care. Reading this story hurt my heart, churred my stomach, and put an ache in my soul. It compounds the real and raw reality aligned with the stressors of the role one may feel. It also reminds me of the importance of having a caregiving village to lean upon in times of distress. I have been there, being totally transparent. I had some days and nights where I looked to take a long walk off a short pier. Thank God for my village!

The holiday season brings up memories and emotions for people of all ages, but elders and their caregivers are often overlooked. We need all hands on deck and all antennas up to the signs of elder abuse and intervene when possible. During the holidays, these feelings of isolation and exhaustion create feelings of “ I can’t do it anymore.”

These feelings come from sleep exhaustion, feeling alone, and losing independence as once known. For me, most of my feelings centered on the limited movements to be close to my mother. While it was necessary to leave my job to be a full-time caregiver, the full-time experience was understood because of my nursing profession. I knew of the role’s expectations. Lay-caregivers, are not always equipped to have such knowledge. At least with my career, I had 8-hour breaks outside of the home. When the reality hit being responsible day and night for the care and well-being of someone else, the physical and emotional toll became more apparent.

I wonder what drove this person to end the life of the care recipient? I wonder if there were support systems in place for relief? I wonder if others observed signs and wonders that could have identified harming the care recipient was imminent and could have stepped in to offer assistance? I wonder if they were knowledgeable of social services and community support? Yes, I wonder!

This time of year is challenging for many caregivers. There are small steps we can all take to prevent and address elder abuse. If you know a caregiver, please take the time to check on them. Don’t text; pick up the telephone and check in on them. The human touch is priceless. Send an encouraging card to let them know you care and are thinking of them. It means so much. As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, I like to share a few nuggets:

· Caregivers must have respite periods. We cannot say this enough.

· Taking short breaks can make a difference.

· Provide social support to the caregiver and care recipient by checking in on them and asking others to do the same.

· Sometimes the appearance of neglect is the first time of impending doom. It is all right to question skin blotches and bruises, weight loss, poor dental health, and wearing the same clothing for multiple days.

Paying attention to details could save a life, the caregivers, and the care recipient. Be safe! Be well!

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