Menu Close

Caring For Elderly Parents Who Were Abusive

Some people are very fortunate and they grew up with supportive, healthy parents. But for many of us, that just was not the case. Some of us had neglectful parents who were emotionally, physically, and/or mentally abusive.

Others grew up with difficult parents who may not have been outright abusive, but nonetheless had a negative impact on their lives.

No matter what kind of relationship you had with your parents growing up, when they reach an age where they need extra care and support, it can be hard to know how to respond.

If you’re caring for elderly parents who demonstrated abusive behavior towards you, it can be a tough balancing act. On the one hand, you want to do what you believe is the right thing and provide them with the best possible care.

But on the other hand, you don’t want to give them the opportunity to hurt or verbally abuse you again. It can help to remember that your elderly parents are different people now due to age, health conditions, and other life circumstances.

I get it, this is a very difficult position to be in and I do feel for you. I was in a very similar situation myself so I know your pain. Believe me, you are not alone.

A study in 1997 explored family relationships in later life and found that 7 percent of adult children had cut ties with their mother and 27 percent from their father. In 2020, research by sociologist Karl Pillemar showed that 1 in 4 Americans are estranged from their families—roughly 67 million people.

In this article, I’ll give you some information that will hopefully help to make your situation a bit easier.

What Is Considered Abusive Behavior?

Abusive behavior is any kind of action that is intended to hurt, manipulate, or control another person. Abuse can come in many forms, and it is important to recognize the signs of abuse so you can take steps to protect yourself.

Abusive behavior can sometimes manifest in small, seemingly insignificant ways. Little things such as belittling comments, name-calling, or withholding affection are all signs of abuse and should not be overlooked.

The commonly held definition of abuse, which we use in all of our trainings, is “a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another.” One thing to note about that definition is that we are talking about a pattern of behavior, in other words, not just one incident.

Some common types of abusive behavior include physical violence, verbal threats or insults, emotional manipulation, financial control or exploitation, sexual coercion or assault, and isolation from friends or family.

All of these forms of abuse are wrong and should never be tolerated. It is important to take action immediately.

If you need help, reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support, contact a local domestic violence organization for assistance, and/or talk to a professional counselor.

Remember that there is no excuse for abuse and it can have far-reaching consequences on your physical, psychological, and emotional health. Taking steps now to recognize abusive behavior can help you get the support you need to stay safe.

How To Cope With Caregiving Older Adults

You may be caring for your elderly, abusive parents after a lifetime of dealing with their mistreatment. This can take an emotional toll, as it is likely that much of your entire life has been warped by the abuse you’ve suffered.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t define who you are, and there are ways to manage these difficult situations.

Caring for your abusive parents in their old age can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience, especially if you are the primary caregiver.

It is important to recognize that your own emotional well-being should come first, so it is essential to have the proper support system in place both before and during this process.

Here are some tips on how to cope with caring for an abusive aging parent:

1. Establish boundaries: It is important to set clear boundaries with your parents (the care recipient), especially if they are abusive. Make sure that you are comfortable with any interactions and always keep yourself safe by removing yourself from any potentially dangerous situation.

2. Seek professional help: Talk to a mental health professional or social worker for guidance on how to best handle your present situation. These professionals can offer suggestions on how to navigate difficult conversations and emotions as well as provide you with support throughout the process.

3. Look into hiring a geriatric care manager: A geriatric care manager may be able to help you by providing guidance on how to better manage your parents’ needs and act as a buffer between you and your parent.

4. Take care of yourself: Caring for an older adult can be emotionally draining. But if they are abusive, it only adds to the strain. Make sure you take time for yourself and your own well-being – it is essential if you want to be able to provide care in a healthy way. Find activities that help relax, de-stress, and bring joy into your life.

This is the time to seek out social support from your friends and relatives. The care of elderly parents is hard enough without the added burden of any physical and/or emotional abuse that they may dish out.

5. Set boundaries: Boundaries can help you protect yourself and provide a safe space when interacting with your elderly, abusive parent. Consider what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of communication and interaction. Make sure to communicate these boundaries clearly, and also make sure you are prepared to enforce them if they are broken.

6. Seek out support: It is essential to have a strong emotional support system when caring for an elderly, abusive parent. Consider joining a support group for caregivers of elderly parents or seeking out therapy or counseling to help process the emotions and experiences associated with caring for an elderly, abusive parent.

If possible, hire an in-home caregiver to give you some respite. Someone who can provide hands-on care to your elderly parent can give you the time and space needed to attend to your own needs.

This will also help to provide an additional layer of safety for your elderly parent and yourself.

7. Protect yourself: You must take active steps to protect yourself from emotional, physical, or financial harm caused by the abuse. If your parent becomes uncontrollably angry or violent, make sure you have a safe place to go until they calm down.

Talking to someone you trust can also be very helpful in giving you a space to express yourself and gain valuable insight into different coping methods.

There Are Different Types Of Abuse That Older Parents Give To Their Adult Children

The last time I heard of parents abusing their own children was when an elderly couple was found to have been emotionally manipulating and belittling their son for years.

This type of abuse is known as psychological abuse, which can range from verbal insults and humiliation to controlling behaviors such as isolating the victim or undermining self-esteem.

There are basically 5 different types of abuse that adult children can suffer from their older parents:

Physical Abuse – This involves physical violence, such as hitting, pushing, or otherwise physically hurting the adult child.

Verbal Abuse – Verbal abuse is any kind of belittling, degrading, or insulting language used by a parent. This can include name-calling, putdowns, and other negative comments about an adult child’s looks, behavior, intelligence, or abilities.

Emotional Abuse – This can include verbal abuse in forms such as name-calling and belittling the adult child. It can also be exhibited by constantly criticizing and invalidating the adult child’s thoughts and feelings.

Financial Abuse – This occurs when an elderly parent withholds money or other resources from their adult children, often while exerting undue influence over them. Financial abuse can take many forms, such as using a grandchild’s Social Security number to open credit cards in their name or taking out a loan in their name without their knowledge.

Psychological Abuse – This type of abuse involves the use of manipulation and threats to control an adult child’s behavior and emotional state. It can include guilt-tripping, mind games, isolating them from their own family members and friends, or otherwise trying to manipulate them into doing something against their will.

Most adult children suffer from any one or several of these different types of abuse. The best way to protect yourself from abuse is to become aware of it and take measures to prevent it.

How Do You Deal With An Aggressive Elderly Mother?

Sometimes, elderly people can become aggressive due to age-related changes in their cognitive and physical abilities. If your elderly mother is becoming increasingly aggressive, there are some steps you can take to manage the situation.

I can tell you from personal experience that the very first thing you need to do if your aging mother is aggressive, is to protect yourself. Don’t try to reason with your mother’s aggression, and never put yourself in a situation where you could be physically hurt.

One of the great things about being an adult is that you get to decide what kind of relationship to have with your parents.

Here are some other strategies that may help:

  1. Remain calm and composed: It is important to remain calm and avoid reacting to your mother’s aggression. Take deep breaths and try to speak in a calm, reassuring tone.
  2. Try to understand the cause of the aggression: Aggression can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, mental illness, or some type of cognitive impairment, or it may be caused by frustration, fear, or confusion. Try to understand the root cause of your mother’s behavior, and address the underlying issue if possible.
  3. Set boundaries: It is important to set boundaries and communicate clearly what behaviors are and are not acceptable. Let your mother know that aggressive behavior is not acceptable, and be firm in enforcing these boundaries.
  4. Seek professional help: Consider consulting a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or therapist, who can help diagnose any underlying medical conditions or provide guidance on how to deal with aggressive behavior.
  5. Consider alternative living arrangements: If your mother’s aggression is severe and causing significant stress, you may need to consider alternative living arrangements, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility.
  6. Take care of yourself: It is important to prioritize your own well-being and take breaks when needed. Consider seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist to help manage the stress and emotions associated with caring for an aggressive elderly mother.

Remember that dealing with an aggressive elderly mother can be difficult, but it is important to remain patient, and compassionate, and take steps to ensure your own safety and well-being.

How Do You Deal With Bitter Elderly Parents?

My mother’s lifelong mantra was “I live under a black cloud.” To say that she was a bitter woman is an understatement.

Although she had always been strong-willed and even aggressive and that continued until the day she passed away. It’s important to remember that it’s not directed toward you. It’s most likely the result of a difficult life.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a bitter elderly parent is that you can’t change them, no matter how hard you try. Focus on what you can control – your own behavior and attitude – and be kind to yourself as well as your parent.

Be honest with yourself about your feelings. It’s normal for you to feel frustrated or even angry at times, but it’s important that you don’t stay in this state of mind for too long. Make sure to take a few moments each day to center yourself and practice self-care.

Remain patient and understanding. Remember that your parents are dealing with a lot of changes, both physical and emotional. Try to stay calm when interacting with them, and give them space if they need it.

Focus on the positives in their lives. If they are still living at home, look for ways to help them be more independent.

This may include making sure they are getting enough exercise or reminding them to take their medications on time. If they need additional assistance, look into home health care or other support services that can make things easier for them.

Get help if needed. It’s ok to reach out for support if you are feeling overwhelmed. Talk to a therapist or doctor about how to best handle the situation and get advice on how to approach your parents’ unique needs.

The most important thing is to practice self-care. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of an elderly parent.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods. Exercise regularly, take time for yourself, and make sure you have a social circle of friends and family to talk to during difficult times.

How Do You Deal With A Manipulative Elderly Parent?

When dealing with a manipulative elderly parent, it is important to remember that they may not mean any harm and are likely just trying to get their needs met. However, it can be difficult to know how best to respond in these situations.

One approach is to gently remind the parent of boundaries and verbalize what you need from them. Speak in a respectful and non-confrontational manner while still being firm.

It can also be helpful to set realistic expectations with the parent. Explain your own needs, time constraints, and limits before they become an issue that needs to be addressed.

Let them know what is expected of them and encourage clear communication when there are changes in routines and expectations.

It’s important to remain empathetic, especially when dealing with a manipulative parent. Acknowledge their feelings even if you don’t agree with them. This helps foster understanding and can help avoid becoming defensive or escalating the situation further.

At times it may be necessary to take a step back from the situation. If a conversation becomes too heated, it’s okay to take some time away from the situation until it can be addressed without anger or resentment.

It is also important to seek out support from other family and friends. Often, just having someone to talk to and share experiences with can help you cope better with difficult situations.

Additionally, seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can provide helpful resources and advice for handling manipulative behavior.

Remember to practice self-care during difficult times. It’s important to prioritize your own mental and physical health in order to better handle these situations.

Spending time with people who are supportive of you can be a great way to recharge and keep your spirits lifted.

Finally, it’s essential to set boundaries and stick to them. It can be challenging to resist the pressure of a manipulative parent, but it is essential if you want to keep their behavior in check.

With patience, practice, and support, dealing with a manipulative parent can become easier over time.

Do I Have To Take Care Of My Aging Abusive Parents?

The answer to this question depends on where you live (the laws in your area) and your own moral code. In some cases, adult children may be legally required to provide support for their elderly parents if those parents are unable to take care of themselves.

Who Is Legally Responsible For Elderly Parents?

The legal responsibility for elderly parents is an important question as many families struggle with caregiving and other responsibilities.

Generally speaking, adult children are not legally responsible for their elderly parents’ care unless they have another fiduciary arrangement of attorney (POA) or another fiduciary arrangement.

If there is no POA or other legal arrangement in place, then the elderly parents remain legally responsible for themselves. However, adult children may still be able to provide care and support for their elderly parents on a voluntary basis.

There are 28 states in the USA that have Filial Responsibility Laws on their books. These laws place the responsibility of financial support onto adult children if their parents are unable to provide for themselves.

However, these laws are rarely enforced but they are still the law.

I would recommend speaking to an elder law attorney to get legal advice on the best course of action for your situation.

An elder law attorney can provide practical advice about how to handle various legal matters related to elderly parents. This could include powers of attorney, guardianships, estate planning, and more.

Moral Duty To Taking Care Of Your Elderly Parents

This of course is a personal decision, based on your own moral code. Do you take the high road or do you shirk the responsibility?

It’s extremely difficult to resolve the issue of caring for elderly parents who were abusive to you as a child. You may feel that you don’t owe them anything, and there’s merit to this feeling.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that your parents are aging and in need of care, regardless of their past behavior towards you. It can be difficult for adult children to reconcile these two conflicting feelings, but it is possible.

These adult children want to know if they are terrible people for struggling so much with this decision. They want to know what their options are. They want to know why they carry guilt for not wanting to care for someone who was such a destructive force in their lives.

I resolved this issue for myself by realizing that I wasn’t necessarily helping my mother, who was a very difficult person, to say the least. I was going to help my sister who was currently caring for my mother.

At the end of the day, my mother would be gone but I still wanted a relationship with my sister. So, I pitched in and did what I could to help. For me, it was a good decision.

If you decide that you have a moral duty to take care of your elderly parents, there are important steps you can take.

Consider speaking with a licensed therapist or counselor to help work through the complex emotions involved in taking care of people who treated you poorly as a child.

You may also benefit from talking with others who have had similar experiences. I strongly recommend seeking out support groups for family caregivers in your area. Also, look for online support forums and offline meetups. You don’t have to do it alone!

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your elderly parents don’t have much control over their situation or their health. As a result, it’s critical to be patient and understanding when providing care for them. Even if they weren’t that way towards you.

How To Get Over Any Guilt If You Decide Not To Take On The Responsibility

In many cases, the healthier option (for yourself) is to not take on the responsibility of caring for your elderly abusive parents. With this decision comes some guilt (it’s only normal) which needs to be addressed so that you can move forward with your life in a healthy manner.

Here are some tips to help you get over the guilt:

1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings of guilt. The first step is to recognize that you have these emotions coming up for you, and it’s ok to feel them. Allow yourself to process the emotions and be kind to yourself in this process.

2. Re-frame the situation. Take a step back and think about why you made the decision not to take on the responsibility. Remind yourself that it was an act of self-care and that it is in your best interest to prioritize your own health and well-being first.

3. Refocus your energy on other areas in your life. Instead of fixating on what you chose not to do, focus your attention and energy on other areas in your life where you can be productive. Investing time and effort into activities that bring you joy is a great way to channel positive vibes and reduce guilt.

4. Find closure by resolving the situation. If possible, try to have a conversation with the person or people who are affected by your decision. Acknowledging their feelings and offering an apology for any inconvenience that may have resulted from your choice can help you to move on.

5. Take care of yourself by doing activities that make you feel relaxed and content. Find ways to take your mind off the situation, such as going for a walk, meditating, or doing something creative.

6. Reach out to others who understand the situation and can provide support. Talking to people who are in similar situations can help you to gain perspective on the issue and put your emotions into context.

7. Practice self-compassion by recognizing that you made the best decision given the circumstances. Remind yourself that you did what was right for you, and acknowledge your feelings without judgment or shame.

8. Work toward acceptance by reflecting on the situation and trying to see it from a different perspective. Practice self-forgiveness, recognize that mistakes are part of being human, and let go of the guilt.

9. Do something positive to make up for your decision, such as volunteering or helping someone in need. This will help you stay focused on the present and give you a feeling of accomplishment.

10. Find ways to take care of yourself emotionally and physically so that you can move through this difficult time more easily. Spend time with friends, go for a walk, or practice yoga.

11. Talk to someone about your experience. Talking about it can be liberating and help you rebuild self-esteem. It can also provide fresh insight into the situation and allow you to process your emotions in a safe space.

12. Finally, learn from the experience and remind yourself that it’s okay to say “no”. You have the right to make decisions that are best for you, and don’t need to feel guilty about them. Reflect on what you learned from this situation and use it as a way to grow in the future. It can also help to keep some kind of journal or list of your thoughts and feelings to use as a reference.

By having a plan in place for when you feel overwhelmed by guilt, you can begin to move forward with peace of mind. Remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s essential for living a happy and fulfilling life.

It’s okay to make decisions that are best for you and your well-being. With proper self-care and reflection, you can learn from the experience and start living with clarity and purpose.

If you need more support in navigating guilt or other emotions, consider talking to a trusted friend, family member, therapist, spiritual leader, or counselor.

They can help you to identify the underlying causes of your guilt, explore healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions, and develop positive action steps.

Working through challenging situations can help you gain insight into yourself and provide you with valuable lessons on how to approach future scenarios.

Final Thoughts

Make no mistake, almost every family has their share of drama, some more than others. If you’ve lived with an abusive parent or two, you know what I’m talking about.

Caring for an abusive elderly parent can be a difficult and emotionally draining task.

However, it’s important to remember that you are not alone in this situation, and there are steps you can take to make the best of it.

Reach out to family and friends for support. Consider counseling, or joining a support group where people who have been in similar situations can connect and share their stories.

When possible, try to focus on the positive aspects of caregiving and remember that you are providing a valuable service for your elderly parent.

Make sure you take time for self-care, as it is essential when dealing with difficult caregivers.

Above all, be patient and kind to yourself.

Share This Article

Join our thriving network of 6,685 caregivers and seniors.Granddaughter caring for her grandmother.Learn Expert Safety Tips, About The Latest Trends
And Much More!

Click Here To Subscribe

Join our thriving network of 6,685 caregivers and seniors.Granddaughter caring for her grandmother.Learn Expert Safety Tips, About The Latest Trends
And Much More!

Click Here To Subscribe