How often do you accept inappropriate behavior because you “understand” that the person is sick, dealing with a crisis, addiction or for some other reason? Is it healthy to do this? Is this the compassionate thing to do? Where do you draw the line?
We humans need to be liked, loved, accepted, wanted and needed to one degree or another. To that end, we often put up with a lot to have those needs met. But how helpful is it over looking inappropriate behavior particularly if it’s having a negative impact on you?
Different scenarios call for different things to consider. However, it is important to recognize that it’s not okay to be abused, be it physical, verbal or emotional. Secondly, put your needs first. It isn’t being selfish, but rather a tool to help you come from a place of strength to be compassionate and caring. Allowing yourself to be someone’s “whipping boy,” no matter how you rationalize it, takes a terrible toll on your mind, body and spirit. Finally, mental illness is not an excuse for seriously inappropriate behavior but it’s one very commonly used. If this is an underlying issue, read When Someone Close to You Has a Mental Health Issue .
Bottom line-Accepting unacceptable behavior makes it acceptable.
Below are some scenarios and ways to deal with them
Scenario I: The person has a dementing illness, e.g. Alzheimer’s, a brain tumor, or some other major illness that is negatively impacting cognition. Verbal abuse is very common with dementia patients, posing significant challenges for caregivers. The reason the person is acting out can be rooted in various triggers, which can be hard to determine, particularly if the person has lost the ability to communicate effectively. Remember you didn’t cause the disease so don’t blame yourself for something out of your control.
• Try to remember that this is not abuse or aggression toward you.
• Remain calm and don’t respond with anger, fear, alarm or anxiety if at all possible.
• Be clear about the person’s diagnosis and talk to their medical provider about what you are experiencing
• Try to determine what the triggers are and eliminate them
• Try various approaches to avoid the inappropriate behavior including: regular physical activity (short walk); social interaction; giving them an activity they can do such as caring for plants, washing dishes; music, art and pet therapy
• Don’t go it alone. Get help. If this is too damaging a situation, you are not a bad person if you need to stop being a caregiver.
Scenario II: A provider abused by a patient. Provider abuse is so common, particularly among nurses, it’s considered to be part of the job description. It’s not okay.
• Know what type of policies and procedures your medical facility has put in place to protect staff, If they have an “acceptable behavior agreement” contract, or a provider “bill of rights,” which the patient is required to sign, use it. These agreements outline inappropriate patient behaviors, how this impacts staff as well as delivery of care, and consequences if behavior continues. Patients often don’t understand how their negative behavior impacts those around them let alone their care. If your facility does not offer such an agreement, work with them to put one in place.
• Get help, particularly if the person becomes violent
Scenario III: Domestic Abuse- Chronic conditions are linked with domestic violence. Even while they are still in an abusive relationship, many do not make the connection between their health conditions and their past relationships, and even more alarmingly, neither do health professionals.
This type of abuse knows no gender but women are more apt to report it while men are far more ashamed about it and are less likely to do so. It’s important to understand that abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser. It’s about power and control and they will use a wide array of means to get or exert it-humiliation, violence, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, blame etc. This is not a sign of love or respect and the sooner one is out of such a relationship the better for all.
It’s also important to recognize that many assume that domestic abuse and violence is associated with a mental illness. As it turns out, there are a few mental illnesses or disorders that can increase the risk of abusive patterns. Overall though, abuse and mental illness are very separate. Even if they do have a mental health issue, abuse is never okay.
• Learn more about Domestic Violence and Abuse and what can be done about it.
• Call or log onto the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
• Check out other resources: Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence from Women’s Health Does Mental Illness Cause Abuse
Don’t be an enabler and put up with inappropriate behavior, Check out the