For many home healthcare aides, verbal abuse from clients or clients’ family is a real problem, a U.S. study suggests.

Caregivers who reported verbal abuse were also more likely to report physical abuse, researchers found.

Verbal abuse can hurt these aides’ long-term health and lead to higher turnover rates, said senior study author Margaret Quinn, who is director of an industry outreach initiative called Safe Home Care Project at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.

More than one in five caregivers, or 22%, reported at least one incident where they had been verbally abused in the past 12 months.

The actual number of incidents may have been higher, as people’s ability to recall relatively minor incidents of verbal abuse may decrease over time, the researchers say.

Among aides who reported verbal abuse, 17% said they had been yelled at or spoken to in an angry or humiliating tone, 10% said they were made to feel bad about themselves, 6% reported racial, ethnic, religious or personal insults and 5% said they had received verbal threats of harm.

Dementia in the care recipient was strongly linked with instances of abuse, Quinn’s team writes in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

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