People may feel ashamed or afraid to talk about abuse, including the verbal kind, so the researchers from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity asked their older sub­jects to respond to ques­tions by touching a com­puter screen. It gave them more privacy.

They instructed these seniors to think about the person who helped them most with their care – it could be a family member or a paid helper – then asked, “How often in the past year did someone insult or swear at you?” and “How often did someone stomp out of the room or house?” and “How often did someone threaten to hit or throw some­thing at you?” The ques­tions came from a much-​​used scale that mea­sures conflict.

This study, which involved 142 older patients at a large aca­d­emic med­ical center in New York, did not ask people to describe the kind of verbal mis­treat­ment they had expe­ri­enced from their care­givers. But Terry Fulmer, lead author of the research and dean of Northeastern’s Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, in Boston, has explored elder abuse for 20 years and has heard the most fre­quent com­plaints many times:

She yells at me.”

He swears at me all the time.”

She tells me that if I keep acting like this, she’ll put me in a nursing home.”

The par­tic­i­pants in Dr. Fulmer’s study were ambu­la­tory older people who lived in the com­mu­nity and who did not have dementia, which would lead you to think their care­givers might face some­what less stress than those whose elders are bedridden or demented.

Read the article at The New York Times →