Categorized | Family Care

Elder bullying by caregivers comes in many forms

By Doug Peck

One of the hardest things to see is a senior being bullied and yet I see instances of it, to varying degrees, with increasing frequency. Bullying can be defined as harassment, maltreatment or even singling out. It usually doesn’t include any physical abuse or threats when directed towards seniors.

When it is directed towards seniors I have noticed two things. One, it is often done by family members. Two, it’s not necessarily intentional. They often aren’t aware of what they are doing or how it hurts the senior. Let me give you two real life examples.

When sitting down to talk with both the senior and family member about what mom would like to do with a new companion, where she would like to visit, what restaurants she would like to go to, etc., the son barely gives his mother an opportunity to speak and when she does voice an opinion, it is quickly disregarded with few sharp words. Comments such as “she’s never asked us to take her to the library before. I don’t think she would like that,” are made and yet one can clearly see a look of disappointment on mom’s face.

In another instance where mom lives with her daughter, who works fulltime, often two, and three doctor’s appointments are crammed into one day. The day may start at home with an 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. physical therapy session. This is a very early hour for someone who is 90 because it takes that person awhile to get up and get dressed. The day is too exhausting with all of this activity.

Are these acts done intentionally? I don’t think so. We all live in a very busy world where it is often necessary to get as much done as quickly as possible. But whether they are done intentionally or not, they have the same effect. When opinions are dismissed out of hand, when comments are made as if the other person is not even there, when planned activities lead to exhaustion, that’s bullying.

It is very difficult to watch and even more difficult to try and stop as the person doing it is often not aware of the consequences. So what can a caregiver do? When taking care of an elderly parent in the home, apply these axioms: Do to others, as you would have them do to you; and treat others in the way they like to be treated.

Watch what you say and how you say it.

Most importantly, make sure to give yourself a break. Being a caregiver does not mean you have to do everything yourself. Have a neighbor, friend or a paid caregiver relieve you on a regular basis. Treat yourself to lunch, a movie or even a few quiet hours in the library. It will be better for everyone.

Doug Peck, CSA, is owner of Seniors Helping Seniors, in Southborough. He can be reached at 508-485-1765. Visit their website at He can be reached at


4 Responses to “Elder bullying by caregivers comes in many forms”

  1. Kate says:


    This was a good article, however, there can be another side.

    My father is a classic Narcissist, and he has bullied us his entire life. He is now 84 and we are taking care of him.

    We don’t do what you described except for talking over him to his doctor, because he LIES about his condition and what he is able to do. He had a stroke, and was physically but not mentally affected. Yay for him that he is still there mentally, but when you are depending on your children to take care of you, DON’T BE SUCH A JERK!

    Just tonight he realized that I had taken the knobs off of his stove, because I was afraid he would set his house on fire. I had talked to him about this many times before, but he refused to listen to me about NOT cooking for himself, that we would do it. (which we are). When he called about it, he thought we had taken the knobs off to clean them. I told him the truth, that we were very worried about a fire.

    He hung up on me.

    There are MANY more examples of things like this, not to mention that he has NO money because he blew it all on “toys” and trips. He made a lot of money, but didn’t save one dime. Yet he thinks it’s OK that we are trashing our savings to take care of him.

    We also found him a wonderful assisted living facility, that would even accept his dog, but he is refusing to go. He wants to stay in his FULLY MORTGAGED home,(actually over-mortgaged, since he has a second mortgage in the form of a HELOC…), and expects us to take care of him. This includes all cooking, cleaning, shopping, bill paying, and showering.

    Not to mention that we have full time jobs, and we can’t be with him all the time, and it is dangerous for him to be living alone. I’m surprised the EMTs haven’t reported his situation yet. He falls frequently and has one of those emergency buttons, so the EMTs have been out there frequently.

    He absolutely refuses to face the reality of his situation, and doesn’t give a d*mn about what this is doing to us emotionally and financially.

  2. Elle says:

    Please stop printing this kind of nonsense now. Right now. Labeling the incidents in this article bullying/abuse is inflammatory and unfair to beleaguered caregivers, who often are not only juggling work, but caring for ailing spouses and may even have twenty somethings living at home. They are uncompensated heroes.! Not bullies, not abusers. How dare you malign them and endanger their lives with misinformation.

    My mother hated libraries and museums, but she would never admit this to others. She also hated to go to the doctors, so it made good sense to arrange for her to see several professionals in the same facility on the same day. Yes, it was exhausting, especially for me. I was the person who had to help her get dressed for the appointment, helped her down the stairs and into the car, where she sat and waited while I put her walker and wheelchair into the trunk. She sat, while I drove her to the appointment. Then once at the facility I had to take the wheelchair from the car, while she sat and waited. I had to manuver her into the wheelchair. Push her into the facility. Go back to the car and bring her the walker. Leave her sitting while I parked the car. After I parked the car then I could either push her in her wheelchair or she could use her walker. Most of the time she used the walker, but we had the wheelchair just in case. I had to help her dress and undress at each appointment. I brought her water. I carried her handbag filled with every conceivable supply. And when we were finished it was me who walked to get the car, bring her to it. Put the wheelchair and walker back into the car. Drive her home. Help her from the car into the house. Bring her wheelchair and walker back into the house. Help her change her clothing. Prepare her something to eat.

    The process is daunting not only for the elder, but the caregiver. Maybe the solution is not to demand more from caregivers who are already stretched to the breaking point, but to demand more from the medical community, such as tele-medicine, so no one is exhausted from too many medical jaunts.

  3. Logic says:

    What garbage are you dishing out here? Giving labels to things that are no more related to abuse or bullying as giving a child a time out. It’s so obvious that you’ve never experienced caregiving in your life. Caregiving is one of the most stressful jobs there is and those of us who are handling it, along with managing our own life, ask you to cease and desist with this nonsense.

    I work full-time and care for my 93-year old mother. She needs to live in a separate location as she is handicapped and cannot get up and down the stairs in my co-op apartment; hence I’m maintaining two households as well.

    If I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid and most of my vacation time is spent in doing things such as taking her to the doctor etc.

    Unless you spend a week in our shoes, don’t condemn or cause people to mislabel things. We have a hard enough time trying to keep them out of a nursing home so don’t give the state any additional reason to put them in.

  4. Alwaysaneyeroll says:

    I dare you to sit with my mom during dinner at a restaurant.

    She orders bacon. It comes and it is soggy – not crispy, like she adamantly demanded of the waitress 16 times.

    The waitress walks away. My mom picks at her plate and bursts into tears. Not just tears, but great braying sobs.

    Meanwhile, I’m enjoying my sandwich and ignoring her because this is the exact same performance I’m used to and I know what’s going to come next – people staring at me and wondering what I said or did to that poor, sweet little old lady. I’ve grown quite the teflon skin over the years.

    The waitress rushes over and my mom tells her nothing is wrong. Mom sobs over her meal and I know eyes are upon me – and I really don’t care. I know the dance. I know what comes next.

    Mom eats a nibble of toast off her plate and sobs. She sobs in front of the cashier, inconsolable. Sometimes their eyes meet mine and I see hatred. Sometimes I see the wearied look of understanding.

    Mom sobs all the way to the car. She sobs as I help her into the car and once the door is shut, it begins:

    “You knew my bacon was soggy – why didn’t you tell them to crisp it up!? And why did you let me pay for that! I didn’t eat a bite and you didn’t say a word!”

    So please…go out into the world and live among us who must care for the elderly before making rash assumptions.


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