Abuse of vulnerable people with dementia by their carers: can we identify those most at risk?

Research paper by Colm C Cooney, Robert R Howard, Brian B Lawlor

Indexed on: 20 Jun '06Published on: 20 Jun '06Published in: International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry


We wanted to explore possible associations between characteristics of carers, dementia sufferers and the caring situation and the presence of abuse that was acknowledged by carers.Eighty-two carers of dementia sufferers were interviewed in their homes about three types of abuse (verbal abuse, physical abuse and neglect) using a structured questionnaire.Fifty-two percent (n = 43) carers admitted to having carried out some form of abuse. Verbal abuse was the most common form (n = 42, 51%), while 20% (n = 16) of carers admitted to physical abuse and 4% (n = 3) to neglect abuse. Significant associations were found between verbal abuse and psychological ill health in the carer and behavioural problems in the dementia sufferer. Physical abuse was significantly associated with higher levels of self-reported good health by the carer. High expressed emotion measured in carers was highly correlated with all types of abuse.It is possible to identify situations where people with dementia may be at high risk of abuse from their carers. Any effective intervention strategy should address psychological health problems in the carer, behavioural problems in the dementia sufferer and a strategy to manage high levels of expressed emotion in these situations.