International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

What would help me stop abusing? The family carer's perspective

Amber Selwooda1, Claudia Coopera1 c1, Colm Owensa1, Martin Blancharda1 and Gill Livingstona1

a1 Department of Mental Health Sciences, University College London, U.K.


Background: A third of family members caring for people with dementia report acting abusively towards them, but there are currently no evidence-based interventions to reduce or prevent such behavior. Family carers who act abusively have not previously been consulted about what may help to reduce abuse.

Method: We prospectively recruited a consecutive sample of 220 family carers of people with dementia referred to secondary psychiatric services. We asked carers who reported any abusive behavior in the previous three months to select from a list of services and potential interventions those that they thought might help to reduce or prevent this abusive behavior. Carers were also asked to suggest other interventions that might help prevent abuse.

Results: 113/115 carers who reported any abusive behavior answered questions about possible interventions. The three most frequently endorsed interventions were: medication to help the care recipient's memory (n = 54; 48.2%); written advice on understanding memory problems and what to do (n = 48; 42.9%) and more information from professionals caring for the person with dementia (n = 45; 40.2%). When asked which interventions were most important, medication to help memory (n = 21; 18.6%), home care (n = 17; 15.0%), residential respite and sitting services (both n = 12; 10.6%) were most frequently endorsed.

Conclusion: To prevent abuse, family carers prioritized medication for memory, good communication from professionals, written advice on memory problems, home care, residential respite and sitting services. As no interventions to reduce abuse by family carers have yet been formally evaluated, a good starting point may be the expressed wishes of family carers.

(Received September 25 2008)

(Revised October 29 2008)

(Revised November 12 2008)

(Accepted November 17 2008)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Claudia Cooper, Department of Mental Health Sciences, University College London, Holborn Union Building, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London, N19 5LW, U.K. Phone: +44 (0) 207 2885931 Email: