Hired helpers are not the only ones to watch out for… family caregivers or helpers may be a bad caregiver too. They may not only be bad caregivers; they could be dangerous too.

June 1, 2022

If your loved one is not comfortable around the hired caregiver or the family caregiver, it may be that their personalities don’t mesh. Nothing good or bad is going on, just a mis-match. Sometimes, it is much more than that.

Do they have the skills needed to provide quality care?

The caregiver may be well-meaning, but they do not have the experience or skills necessary to do the job right. This is more common in family members as caregivers and in hiring a private caregiver. Get references and check them out.

For example, you have a loved one that weighs 240 lbs. and the caregiver weighs 150 lbs. If your loved one needs help getting out of bed, bathing, transferring to a chair, and they cannot help themselves, what will happen? Dead weight is very heavy. If the caregiver has not had any training in lifting, transferring or bathing this type of person, what do you think is going to happen? Falls. Back pain and pulled muscles for the caregiver. Injury to your loved one. You can’t just pull someone up by their arm. Not to mention the dignity and respect issues. They are not a toddler and they deserve compassion, dignity and respect.

Look, they may be a bad caregiver. They may be a wonderful person, but they are not a good caregiver. They may be a good caregiver for someone else, but not for your loved one.

You have hired someone to help your loved one and to help out around the house with light housekeeping and cooking. You were specific on what you want/need and it has been agreed to by all parties, right? If not, fix that immediately. Never assume. Clarity cuts down on the aggravation. Create a task list.

Is your loved one out and about in the house or are they in their room “hiding?” Of course, they will need time to get used to their new caregiver, but it should not take a long time. Some folks are not used to have other people in their houses, especially people they do not know. Heck, some of them don’t want people they do know in their houses. Observe to see if it is a familiarity thing or a scared thing.

Specific Signs of Neglect or Elder Abuse

If your loved one is constantly complaining you have to determine if it is because they are frustrated that they are no longer able to do the things they used to do in their own home or is it more? You may have to ask questions along with observing how they are acting and what they are saying. If they don’t like the way the caregiver cooks, well, that is a complaint and can be fixed. If they are saying things like “they just sit there all day,” “they don’t talk to me or anything,” or “they talk to me like I am stupid,” those things may indicate poor treatment by a caregiver.

You see a bruise on the inside of their bicep area. Increased falls. Burns, cuts, scrapes or welts. Pressure ulcers or bed sores. Broken bones. These are all indicators of abuse and neglect. If the explanation does not make sense, trust your get and get them away from your loved one.

From a long-distance

You are a long-distance daughter and you call to talk to your mom. The caregiver always makes some kind of excuse as to why they can’t talk, right now. Is the caregiver always in the room when you call and talk to them or in the same room when you go for a visit? This is a controlling behavior by the caregiver and is not appropriate.

Do they care/love their caregiver too much? Watch out for money being given to the caregiver. Watch out for too much closeness, too fast. It is perfectly fine for them to get along and to care for one another, but it still must be a professional relationship.

Your loved one seems to have declined physically (weaker, more tired) or emotionally (not their normal talkative self). There could be a medical reason. Weight loss or malnutrition are other indicators of inadequate care. It may not be abuse, some caregivers are over their heads with dementia patients, for example.

I would like to make the difference between a bad caregiver and an abusive caregiver. A caregiver can be a bad caregiver and not be abusive towards the care recipient. The caregiver has not been adequately trained for the care recipient. They don’t understand all that goes in to providing care or help to a person with limited mobility, a dementia or a traumatic brain injury. An abusive caregiver does harm to the care recipient or allows harm to impact the care recipient.

If you are suspicious, get the caregiver away from your loved one. At the very least put-up cameras or nanny cams to see what is going on in your absence. If you get a “feeling” or you know that something is not right, trust that instinct. Do not reason it away. You don’t have to know why you know; you just know.



Physical abuse Unexplained signs of injury such as bruises, welts, or scars, especially if they appear symmetrically on two side of the body Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations Report of drug overdose or apparent failure to take medication regularly (a prescription has more remaining than it should) Broken eyeglasses or frames Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone
Emotional abuse In addition to the general signs above, indications of emotional elder abuse include Threatening, belittling, or controlling caregiver behavior that you witness Behavior from the elder that mimics dementia, such as rocking, sucking, or mumbling to oneself
Sexual abuse Bruises around breasts or genitals Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
Neglect by caregivers or self-neglect Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores Unsanitary living conditions: dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes Being left dirty or unbathed Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather Unsafe living conditions (no heat or running water; faulty electrical wiring, other fire hazards) Desertion of the elder at a public place
Financial exploitation Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts Sudden changes in the elder’s financial condition Items or cash missing from the senior’s household Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and policies Addition of names to the senior’s signature card Unpaid bills or lack of medical care, although the elder has enough money to pay for them Financial activity the senior couldn’t have done, such as an ATM withdrawal when the account holder is bedridden Unnecessary services, goods, or subscriptions
  Duplicate billings for the same medical service or device Evidence of overmedication or undermedication Evidence of inadequate care when bills are paid in full Problems with the care facility:
– Poorly trained, poorly paid, or insufficient staff
– Crowding
– Inadequate responses to questions about care