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Dealing with abuse


Question: I am so overwhelmed caring for my both physically and verbally abusive mom for the last six years—and I have been in the medical field for over 20 years! It's different when it's family! How do I get through a day by myself and not fall into a deep depression? I'm so sad.

Dr. Amy: You are so right: taking care of a family member is not the same as treating people professionally. It can be far more complicated because emotion and shared family history are at play. I found the same thing when I cared for my parents.

I have two thoughts for you. The first is that caregiving is not a solitary activity. I often remind people that, just as it takes a village to raise a child, as the proverb says, it also takes a village to care for an aging parent. Frankly, I think it simply takes a village to help us get through life. I encourage you to think differently about the care your mother needs and ask yourself who you can call on for help. Very few people are able to do this alone and remain healthy. If you cannot afford paid support, turn to your friends, family, and community organizations.

My second thought is that it is never acceptable to be abused, and so you need to set boundaries with your mom. You will likely need help from a counsellor preparing for this conversation and establishing new ways of being with your mom. That’s because it seems like the pattern of abuse is long standing. Change will not happen overnight and you may find the process difficult. I encourage you to seek professional help to support you in this new path.

You might try sitting down with your mom and explaining that you have given the matter a lot of thought and want to set ground rules for how you two will interact. Share with her how it makes you feel when she lashes out at you. Talk to her about how you would like your relationship to be. Tell her you sympathize with her situation and know it must be frustrating, but violence and verbal abuse are not OK and you are no longer prepared to accept this. Tell her that you will leave the room the next time, and every time, she starts to be abusive. Then follow through. Obviously, you want your mom to be safe at all times; you need to be safe too.

You do not deserve to be abused. No one does. You deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and gratitude. Good luck on your journey. I send you courage. 

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Posted by Gina Molitor

    I don't know if there is any dementia involved with the mother's condition, but I found that during my father's Alzheimer's journey, anti-anxiety medication helped him to be less agitated and therefor less abusive physically and verbally. (there may be no ability to 'talk reason" with mom.) The bulk of the caregiving burden does, unfortunately, fall onto one person regardless of promises by other family members to 'help out'. We were a medical family too, but toward the latter of dad's ten-year illness, my stress blossomed into full-tilt depression, as I felt very alone with the responsibility and aghast at watching his slow, heartbreaking decline. The stress and sadness is enormous. I commiserate with this gal! Perhaps Rx can help both parties... Gina at StressLessOrBust


  2. August 8, 2013 at 11:11 am | Posted by Jeannie Raasch-Sheffield

    I grew up my whole life dealing with my mother's abuse. Throughout the years I held onto so much bitterness, hatred, and anger; to the point that I was finished with her. I was pulling down the curtain and removing myself from her completely. Then she had two strokes in a year. The first time I stepped up to the plate because no one else would, which made me harbor more bitterness, which isn't healthy. The second time around I hit my knees praying, asking the Lord to free me from the bitterness and replace it with unconditional love like he had for me. It took some time, and know I don't see my mother like I use too. It is still hard from time to time to care for her, but I do it with much love compared to last year. People question my actions because of what she had put me through during my childhood. How I get through all the negative comments from others...I didn't do it for her, I did it for myself. And having faith in the Lord has brought me through so many trials, and through those trials I've experienced so many blessings. Regardless of what others may say or think, He is the only one that matters to me. I know when the day comes that she passes I had done the right thing. I buried the ax so to speak, and I am FREE indeed through the Holy Spirit. Since that time I've found so much peace, joy and happiness in my life. So my advice....take time to pray, seek, ask, knock and He will give it all to you! God bless you!


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