"Elderly, sick or disabled men and women who rely primarily on their spouse for care are more likely to be to be screamed at, threatened or otherwise subjected to potentially harmful behaviors than those whose care is not provided by a spouse, new study findings show.
Spouse caregivers are also more likely to subject their infirm husbands and wives to such behavior when they are themselves sick or when their spouse has many care needs.
"Elderly people taking care of a sick spouse are at higher risk of committing verbally and emotionally abusive acts when the spouse needs high levels of help and when the caregiver...is in poor health," study author Dr. Scott R. Beach, of the University of Pittsburgh, told Reuters Health.
"The stress and strain of caregiving can wear a person down to the point where the quality of care they provide is compromised," he added."
I have noted the heroic efforts of family members to care for a sick and infirm relative. These caregivers seem to have bought into some cultural idea that they are shirking their duty or not strong enough if they cannot provide for the needs of an infirm relative 24/7. I often tell them they could continue to function in this way if they were rich and could afford a housekeeper, cook, valet, butler, and a staff of 5 private duty nurses for round the clock every day of the week care. They laugh when I ask if they can afford this size of a private household staff.
Then I gently say, "Maybe it's time to consider getting X the nursing care they require and you quit trying to do a humanly impossible job."
The study mentioned above appeared in the February, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.