Background: family caregiving can be both rewarding and fulfilling; however, conflicts can occur in the caregiving relationship, and some family carers may engage in behaviours that could be potentially harmful to the older person for whom them provide care.
Objective: to determine the prevalence of potentially abusive behaviours towards older people by family carers.
Design: a postal cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of family carers of community-dwelling older people.
Subjects: a randomly selected sample of family carers in receipt of a social welfare payment for the care they provide to a relative aged 65 and older.
Methods: a self-completion questionnaire was posted to 4,000 family carers of older people across Ireland, and a total of 2,311 eligible completed questionnaires were returned, yielding a response rate of 58%.
Results: more than a third of family carers (36.8%) reported that they engaged in potentially harmful behaviours towards their older family member in the 3 months prior to the survey. Of those potentially harmful behaviours, a third (35.9%) reported that they engaged in potentially harmful psychological behaviours and 8% reported engaging in potentially harmful physical behaviours.
Conclusions: potentially abusive carer behaviours need to be detected at an early stage so that preventive interventions can be introduced to avert caregiving situations deteriorating into serious cases of elder abuse.