As only a part-time caregiver to my grandmother, I feel fortunate that her caregivers are both caring and attentive to her needs and respect her as an individual. However, I’m all too aware that senior neglect and abuse are widespread in some nursing homes and retirement communities. However, these circumstances aren’t always mean-spirited. Even well-meaning individuals with sound moral reasoning can accidentally neglect those that they care for.
In dealing with those in need on a daily basis, many of those in caregiving and medical professions experience what is called secondary traumatic stress, or what is more simply known as compassion fatigue. This results in increased stress and anxiety, and creates indifference or even an extremely negative attitude towards others. Some studies have found that up to 85% of health care workers experience at least one symptom of compassion fatigue.
Being aware of the risks that this can have towards one’s professional performance – and more importantly, how this can manifest itself as abuse and neglect towards those who need their help – is an essential duty of every caregiver. If you are in the care of a neglectful caregiver, or are related to a family member whom you suspect to be a victim, you should first attempt to contact your nursing home supervisor. If their response is defensive or dismissive, or if they do not respond at all, it might help to seek the counsel of a nursing home abuse attorney.
To help improve awareness of the various ways that seniors can be neglected, here are three aspects of wellness that are often forgotten in cases where patient neglect occurs. By remembering these tips, caregivers can improve the overall well-being of senior citizens in their care.
. ..Routine physical activity
Seniors often feel a desire to isolate themselves and refrain from physical activity, so leaving them to stay in bed can be all-too-easy when it seems to be their preference. Staying in bed can cause serious physical side effects, such as infection-prone bedsores and muscle atrophy, but the mental impact of staying in bed all day is nearly as damaging. Even those with physical disabilities should get out of bed on a daily basis.
. ..Emotional well-being
When dealing with a lot of patients with serious conditions on a daily basis, it can be difficult to remain empathetic to their concerns. Reaching out to patients to express authentic concern for their needs is an essential way to help seniors feel like they aren’t simply mouths to feed. No matter what their situation is, establishing and maintaining an emotional connection with patients is an essential part of the caring process.
3. Social connection
One of the best reasons that senior care facilities are favored for many retirees is that these places provide an area where elders can coexist with others who share common interests, face similar issues, and socially connect as equals in ways that a caregiver-patient relationship cannot achieve. However, this independence also provides seniors an avenue to isolate themselves, which can be detrimental to them when allowed for long. Caregivers should always help seniors maintain an active social life, which is necessary to maintain a positive outlook.
It can be easy to overlook the individuality of patients when dealing with occupational stress. But the wellness of those in care is too valuable to society to ever put on hold due to personal problems, and keeping these tips in mind while attending patients can help make sure that seniors are never neglected on your watch. Whether you’re a family member or a professional on the field, it’s always worthwhile to maintain compassionate and responsive to the needs of our elders.
About the author: Alan Brady is a writer who visits his grandmother bi-weekly to lose at Scrabble and check up on her. He advocates for greater awareness of caregiver neglect, which he sees as one of the leading causes of senior depression.