Background: Several studies have investigated abusive behaviour by carers towards people with dementia, most using unvalidated scales; only two reported correlates of abuse after controlling for mediators and confounders, and these controlled for different factors.
Objective: To investigate the acceptability and validity of the Modified Conflict Tactics Scale (MCTS) and abuse correlates.
Methods: Eighty-six people with Alzheimer's disease and their family carers, originally recruited for a representative community study were interviewed. We asked carers about acceptability of the MCTS and investigated its validity by comparing scores to the Minimum Data Set (MDS) abuse screen (an objective measure) and testing hypotheses that MCTS score would correlate with the COPE dysfunctional coping scale but not carer education.
Results: Twenty-four (27.9%) were identified as abuse cases by interview. No care recipients (CRs) screened positive for abuse using the MDS screen. Seventy-two (83.7%) participants thought that the scale was acceptable, ten (11.6%) that it was neither acceptable nor unacceptable, and three (3.5%) that it was unacceptable. As hypothesised, MCTS scores correlated with dysfunctional coping scale score but not carer education.
Conclusions: This is the most comprehensive study so far in this field. The MCTS was acceptable and had convergent and discriminant validity for measuring carer abuse. The MDS failed to identify cases of abuse. Carer male gender and burden, and greater CR irritability, cognitive impairment but less functional impairment predicted carer abusive behaviour. Our findings appear to refute UK government elder abuse reduction policy which assumes that few incidents of abuse arise from carer stress.