Background A third of family carers of people with dementia report abusive behaviour towards the person for whom they are caring. This is the first longitudinal study to investigate such behaviour. Aims To test our hypotheses that carers’ reports of abusive behaviour would increase over time, and that change in abuse scores would be predicted by change in anxiety and depression scores. Method In total, 131 (71.6%) of the family/friend dementia carers consecutively recruited from new referrals to Essex and London community mental health teams who were interviewed at baseline, completed the revised Modified Conflict Tactics Scale to measure abuse 1 year later.
Results Sixty-three (48.1%) of the carers reported any abusive behaviour at baseline compared with 81 (61.8%) a year later (χ2 = 6.9, P = 0.009). An increase in abuse scores was predicted by an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms (respectively β = 0.32, t = 3.9, P<0.001 and β = 0.24, t = 2.9, P = 0.005), and by less domiciliary care at baseline (β = –0.18, t = –2.2, P = 0.031).
Conclusions Most abusive behaviour reported by carers at baseline persisted or worsened in the following year, despite contact with specialist services. We suggest that trials of psychological interventions shown to reduce anxiety and depression in the carers of people with dementia are needed to determine whether they also reduce elder abuse, and can be delivered cost-effectively within the National Health Service (NHS).