My caregiver wife is abused by one of her clients

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male company employee in my 30s and my wife works as a home-care worker. I’m concerned about her safety, because one of her clients is violent.

My wife visits clients three or four days a week to provide care at their homes. Recently, she began providing care to a client with serious dementia. She’s a woman in her 80s who lives alone and has no relatives. My wife tells me the woman is horribly violent toward her.

Specifically, she does things like pinch, scratch and bite. Each time my wife comes back from the woman’s home, I find she has new wounds. Her right arm looks especially bad — it’s always cut and bruised.

Recently, the woman apparently dug her nails deep into the back of my wife’s neck. One false step would have led to a serious case.

The situation is so extreme that I feel the woman is committing a crime. I think the best thing would be for my wife to quit to protect herself. However, she optimistically says to me, “It’s unavoidable due to the nature of my work.” She doesn’t feel like quitting.

I have no idea how I should cope with the problem as her husband. What should I do?

I, Tokyo

Dear Mr. I:

It makes the news if a caregiver inflicts violence on an elderly client with dementia. However, there have been no reports on cases where it’s the other way around.

I’m afraid caregivers silently put up with violence inflicted on them by their clients more often than we can imagine.

Based on your age, I assume your wife is still young, but her attitude toward her work is outstanding. She is not only tough, but also sincere and kind enough to think about people’s loneliness.

On the other hand, it’s certain that caregivers’ work isn’t easy. It’s not enough just to be kind.

If she is always dispatched alone to the homes of clients where there is a danger of violence, or if she has never undergone training to cope with violence, she should be cautious about it. It’s too late once a serious accident happens.

If I could do something for her, it would be to confirm her employer’s system for providing care and its program for training its caregivers.

“We shouldn’t make violence [inflicted by patients] a taboo subject,” said Dr. Hisao Nakai, a psychiatrist.

I’m sure your anxiety is shared by all the people engaged in care work. I hope you can discuss this matter more openly and widely. We should acknowledge that your problem is just the tip of the iceberg.

Hazuki Saisho, writer

(from July 31, 2015, issue)Speech

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