Monday, May 2, 2016

Coping With Verbal Abuse

I'm embarrassed to write about this subject, but I think it is one that others suffering the same kind of trial might need to think about with me.

I'd not thought of myself as a victim until recently, when I staggered out of my Mom's apartment, fell into a chair, and said to my husband, "I feel like I've suffered abuse." He didn't laugh, as I thought he would.

He looked sad, nodded his head, and said, "Well, you have." 

My husband's affirmation of my sense of being mistreated somehow made it real for me. Mom is often verbally abusive, and the shift in my thinking of our relationship as one in which verbal abuse occurs has helped me to see the unwise, victim-like behaviors I exhibit that make her more likely to berate me.

An abuse victim will repeat the behavior that elicits an abusive response. The psychology behind this is that we hope this time the loved one will respond with acceptance that heals past hurts. Of course this doesn't happen.  Behaviors I find myself repeating to no avail are to plead with my mother to stop saying mean things, tell her she is hurting my feelings, or worse, pull a power play and forbid her to speak (which seldom works). The pleading elicits a mocking response from Mom that is hurtful, and ordering her to be quiet makes me feel wretched and affirms her low opinion of me.

Here are some things that I've recognized I need to change: 
1. Respond as a caregiver, not as a daughter.  Assume a professional demeanor, stay calm, and use a neutral voice tone.
2. Recognize that physical discomfort can cause aggression. An Alzheimer's patient can't process information normally, and may feel that the caregiver has caused the pain.  
3. Remember that dementia patients may be unable to explain exactly what is wrong or why they are upset. This may result in agitation that focuses on caregiver as a target. 
4. Don't underestimate the power of kind touch; a back rub or a pat on the arm might help when words won't work (but don't put yourself within reach of a patient who is volatile). 
5. Leave the area as soon as you can safely do so and try again later to complete the task that elicited the negative response. Pick your battles, for example, dry shampoo can be used every other shampoo or so if your care recipient objects to hair washing.  
It's difficult not to receive heart wounds from a patient who is able to draw upon long term memory to outline the caregiver's faults and failures with devastating accuracy. We must pray for wisdom about when to seek other care options for our loved ones.

Many Scriptures minister to the needs of those who suffer. This shows us that suffering isn't such an unusual thing, and reminds us that God provides for us through the discomforts we must bear.


So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
1 Peter 4:19 NLT

1 comment:

  1. Good tips! Sometimes, offering choices is good or asking what can I do for you today? Time was usually what my grandmother undivided attention. Not always possible, but certainly doable for a portion of the day. Many blessings, Linda.