Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Safety

I received an email a little over a week ago from an individual who had chanced upon Dementia Be Damned and found that the post on Lyn's inability to play solitaire struck a chord.  The email raised several red flags for me.  Fortunately, the individual included their phone number and we were able to arrange time for a conversation.  After speaking with the individual, I remain concerned and have followed up with an email with links to the SAGE tests and domestic violence resources.

Here's the thing:  A caregiver's safety is not trumped by the needs of a person who needs care.  If the person who needs care is violent or abusive, the caregiver has a right to be safe.  Period.  Full stop.

It doesn't matter if the person who needs care is violent because of Alzheimer's, mental illness or sheer ugliness and a history of being abused themselves.  It doesn't matter if the person who needs care is dealing with a terminal disease or a chronic condition.  The caregiver needs to be safe.  The caregiver needs to know that they have safety in their own home and that there is safety for everyone else living in the home.  If the caregiver is a family member and not a paid professional, the safety in their own home is complicated by the fact that it most likely means the person who needs care lives with there too.

So, what can be done?  If the person becomes violent or abusive, if the person won't let you leave, you may have to call the police.  You may have to ask friends and family to help you get your stuff and get you out.  You may need to call upon the resources provided by domestic violence shelters.

No matter what, your safety is more important than caring for someone who is abusive even if they're abusive as a result of a disease and it is out of their control.

I sincerely hope the person's situation receives the care that is needed and that it changes quickly and positively.  I remain open to future contact and updates even if it is determined that the person needing care doesn't have Alzheimer's.

2 comments:

  1. We had a brush with similar violence while my dad was alive. He would get angry and combative with my mom who was his primary caregiver and the love of his life. He would have been horrified to know what he was doing before the dementia set in. He didn't ever react angrily with my sister or me - or even with his part-time hired caregiver. (In fact, I got a bump up to "that missionary lady" in his eyes, which was quite a promotion).

    My sis and I watched his behavior closely and checked on Mom often. We all live in different states, so my sis would spend 10 days at Mom and Dad's one month, and then I would do the same the next month. In addition, we checked on her by phone at least once a day. Part of that checking in was asking her if she was safe and healthy. She was always honest about how things were going and how she felt.

    There were several times we thought we might have to arrange something different because of his anger, but having the diversion of one of us in the house appeared to give him something new to focus on and seemed to help. I know he was frustrated at his lack of ability to communicate, and I tried to remember that when working with him. At the same time, Mom had to be safe no matter what.

    Those of us caretaking loved ones with dementia need to keep a careful balance of compassion and stark objectivity.

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    Replies
    1. You're absolutely correct, Sharon. It is a balance of compassion and objectivity. The compassion will allow us to tolerate some abuse, particularly verbal. It will allow us to look for causes and potential mitigation techniques like agreeing with the person, distracting or redirecting them to something else or even introducing medications to help smooth out the emotions. It must be quite frightening to know you're experiencing things differently than you used to and know also that you can't stop it. However, the start objectivity you mention must come into play when we evaluate if someone is in danger.

      It sounds like you and your sister worked hard to find ways to keep your mother safe while caring for your father. I'm glad your interventions helped. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for everyone. If, for example, my sister were to become violent towards Mom, I would work with Mom to find a different arrangement for Lyn immediately. No matter how much love and compassion you have for the person with the disease, you can't sacrifice anyone else's safety, particularly if there are minors or others in the home who are unable to protect themselves.

      Thank you for your comment. I always appreciate when you lend your voice to a topic on DBD. Your first hand experiences and insight are valued.

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