October is a time for raking leaves and Halloween costumes. It’s also National Bullying Prevention Month.
Bullying is defined by StopBullying.gov as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Types of bullying include:
- Verbal (teasing, name-calling, taunting, threats)
- Social (spreading rumors, shaming, leaving someone out of a game or activity)
- Physical (hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking things)
1. Elder abuse by caretakers and family members
The Administration on Aging defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult”.
2. Bullying by peers in senior living facilities
People may develop destructive bullying behaviors as an adjustment mechanism during times of transition, Cyndy Marsh writes in the Caregiver Training Blog, and bullying among seniors can take some of the same forms as childhood bullying:
- gossiping or whispering when someone enters a room
- belittling jokes
- spreading rumors
- bossy behavior
- enforcing artificial seating arrangements
- making fun of physical or mental disabilities
- offensive gestures of facial expressions
- invading one’s personal space
- racial slurs
- physical abuse
On the other hand, as Lifecare Innovations points out, when residents complain to family members about the bullying behaviors of other residents, family members will sometimes attempt to correct the behavior themselves by approaching the offending resident. These scenarios can escalate and cause a bad situation to grow far worse.
Existing studies suggest about one in five seniors encounters bullying, Social work professor Robin Bonifas at Arizona State University sees bullying as an outgrowth of:
a. frustrations characteristic in communal settings
b. issues unique to getting older
3. Adult children overstepping their boundaries.
In dealing with aging parents, It’s imperative that adult children not attempt to force their will on their parents, and that they ”pick their battles” by focusing on only the important things. In “Are You Bullying Your Aging Parents?”, Linda Bernstein names five key issues adult children and parents fight about include:
- home safety
- doctors, treatments, and medication
- end-of-life planning
Let’s all do our best to observe bullying prevention month – all year round!
- by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team