“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This topic is not an easy one to write about, but it is very important. With more frequency I am hearing stories of abuse – abuse of caregivers by their loved ones.

I met with a caregiver recently whose husband has become physically abusive. She is so sad because he has always been so gentle and kind.

She feels guilty talking to anyone about it but his behavior has escalated to the point that she is in danger and needs an exit plan.

There is little support in our community for these caregivers.

How can caregivers who are being abused protect themselves?

What should be their plan be if they feel they are in danger?

Because there are few resources in our community to support this unique form of abuse, it is very important to have a safety plan in place. Also keep a journal of each incident complete with photos.

The sad truth is that when 911 is called, it is very difficult for officers to remove someone from the home without the person’s consent.

Some people who have dementia can appear to be in control, so they remain in the house and the caregiver is still in danger.

The following is a basic safety plan:

  • Develop a code word to use with friends and family to let them know you need immediate help.
  • Make a point to not provoke him when he’s on edge. For example, if he demands you go to your room, say “OK” and go out the front door. Leave the house and call police.
  • Caregivers need to meet with a neurologist or PCP to discuss a plan of what hospital to use if behavior escalates and requires police escort.
  • Call MUSC (843-792-0500) to inquire about psychiatric help for geriatrics and dementia.
  • Stay out of the kitchen and garage when abusive behavior is escalating. Remove knives and guns from house.
  • Have an overnight bag packed and in the trunk of your car. Have a safety location planned in advance.
  • Be sure you have your phone and it has an ICE (in case of emergency) contact number programmed into it.

If you do not know how to do this, have your phone server help. This is very important.

  • Wear a Life Alert button at all times when in the house.
  • Follow through after an incident by contacting BCSD’s Victim’s Advocate Sgt. Meredith Florencio at 843-255-3419.
  • Contact CODA (843-770-1074) to review extra safety planning.
  • Put alarms in his bedroom (pads/baby monitor) so you know when he’s up in the middle of the night.

And a last word of advice. Please do not be ashamed or afraid to reach out to people who can help.

Dementia is a disease that can completely change the behavior of people and this is very difficult for caregivers to understand.

Memory Matters can help you make a plan. We understand how difficult and scary this can be. Call us at 843-842-6688. We care.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org www.memory-matters.org