Hurting the Ones They Love: Dementia & Caregiver Abuse

Anger, irritability, and pointed criticisms are common among people with dementia, and you may have already learned some tools to cope with dementia-induced outbursts. When their internal anger manifests as mental, emotional, or physical abuse toward you or other family members, however, you’re going to need a bigger toolkit.

“Family caregivers sometimes bear the brunt of their loved one’s upsetting and difficult behavior, including yelling, swearing or physical aggression,” says Jessica Smith, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Wildwood, a Memory Care community in Wildwood, Florida. “As the frequency and intensity escalate, these situations can become dangerous for all involved.”

In this post, we’ll discuss 6 things to consider if you are a victim of caregiver abuse.


  1. Determine the cause. There are many reasons people with dementia become abusive. Some include:
  • Frustration and difficulty communicating any other way
  • Depression, anxiety, delusions, or a personality disorder
  • Physical illness or pain
  • Existing toxic personality
  1. Prioritize yourself. You may not feel like you have your loved one’s appreciation, but you deserve their respect. It’s essential to ensure your own safety in a situation that includes abusive behavior. Remove yourself from the situation and bring it up to their healthcare team before returning to your loved one, if necessary.

Taking care of yourself will give you the strength you need to care for your loved one. If you need some time off, find someone to relieve you for a day or so. Joining an online dementia care support group can provide you with realistic ways to relieve caregiver stress and better manage your relationship with your loved one.

  1. Set boundaries. Simply telling your loved one know that their behavior is hurtful and unacceptable may not register. Detaching with love, however, will give you both a chance to calm down, remove the immediate target from your back, and show your parent you will not stand for their behavior.
  2. Call in the pros. If your parent depends on you for 24-hour care and you can’t just walk away for a day or two or ten, consider hiring a dementia-trained in-home caregiver or booking a respite stay at a memory care-specific community.
  3. Assess safety. You may be able to brush off your loved one’s tongue lashings and irritability as par for the course by adopting a healthy way to defuse or avoid outbursts for successful at-home care. However, if your loved one’s behaviors are harming you emotionally or they are prone to physical violence, it’s time to consider a specialized residential memory care community.
  4. Know it’s okay to say ‘no.’ If your parent has a history of being verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, coming to terms with the fact that you don't owe your parent anything other than, perhaps, a safe living environment can be hard. Finding an appropriate residential living community staffed by professionals specially trained in dementia and/or difficult personality behaviors will meet their needs and keep toxicity out of your home.

Doing your research and meeting with care teams to ensure your loved one is in great hands can give you peace of mind and ease any guilt that may be associated with your decision not to care for them personally.

If you find yourself in a situation where your loved one is abusive towards you or others, reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging, their doctor, or a long-term memory care community for help.

For more ways to support your loved one with memory loss, call our dementia care experts at YourLife™ of Wildwood today at 352-433-0942.


Designed for You. Defined by You.

YourLife™ of Wildwood provides the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. In fact, we were created with that one purpose in mind. Each day, we focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating an environment that caters to each resident’s personal needs, choices and individuality, while ensuring unequaled peace of mind and dedicated support for families.

At YourLife™ of Wildwood, we design and personally tailor plans around our residents, thanks to our sole focus on Memory Care. We understand that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so we develop personally inspired care plans that help support each person’s independence while enriching their days. To ensure further peace of mind, our team of YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist with everyday activities, gentle reminders, and redirection.

With our signature YourStory programming, we not only personalize Memory Care, but we are able to create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and wellness programming to scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Wildwood, our residents and their families know that this is a community designed for them, with a lifestyle defined by them. Contact us to learn more!

Call us at 352-433-0942 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.