Is this borderline verbal abuse?

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To have your elder parent for whom you are live-in caregiver say to you “Your coat is wrinkled” and to reply by saying MYOB (mind your own business) in a joking way, which elicits the reply “That’s what you say to me I just want you to look good.” And you reply “no, I don’t criticize your clothes I just tell you when you have crumbs or food all over the front of your shirt so people don’t think we don’t take care of you.”

Am I nuts or is this response detrimental to self image of the older person?

Joking but in a 'shut up' kind of way?

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This is all excellent feedback and I think you. Each has raised a valid point and things to consider. Will follow up when the time is there to express it properly. Just wanted to let you know that it might be a few days before I can do that. Happy New Year! It is about 1 a.m.now. :-D
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Another thing to consider is that someone coming in for a short time is only getting a snapshot of the relationship. Then that snapshot is viewed through the lens of what they think the relationship should be like. Thinking about this, I know that things I've done or said could be viewed as not good. This is because I'm not perfect and don't really try to be. Actually, I think it would make everyone crazy if I tried to be the perfect caregiver. We just try to do good enough.

We can't really tell from the single incident if there is borderline abuse going on or not. We would have to see a whole series of snapshots to see if the child is doing a good-enough job.
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Each day is long and frustrating.. If their relationship has always been this way I wouldn't be alarmed..
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emjo sees this just as I do.

This person (his son?) is not a sensitive individual, apparently. The nuances you (and blannie and emjo and I) see in these communications are probably not deliberate and may not even be noticed by the cg. He is doing the best he can (at his present level of awareness) and may not even know what you are talking about. But you are right. Would the caregiver be open to some training? Some videos? Books? youtube clips?
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I think the tone of voice used, and the quality of the relationship make a huge difference to how words are received. Your guts are telling you that "something is rotten in Denmark". Are you able to have a conversation with the elder to find out how they feel they are being treated - how the relationship with the cg is? You don't mention dementia, so if there is none the elder may be able to give you good feedback. I do understand your concern but don't know how you could intervene in a situation like that other that trying to get another caregiver. I don't know if that is possibly. I see you perceiving an negative "attitude" on the part of the cg which is affecting his charge. Saying "I love you" does not necessarily counterbalance a negative attitude. I know that from experience. Do you have a trusted third party who knows something of the situation or a professional such as a social worker you could discuss this with to get another opinion? Good luck and let us know what works out. I would definitely follow up.
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and by saying I tell you when your clothes are messy but you can't tell me emphasizes that there is an imbalance of power in the relationship and an imbalance of power makes one person feel power-less, thus frustrated constantly. Very stress inducing. Seems small but when you have no real life and the cg is the only real interaction the person has, it begins to feel abusive. I witness it, because I too am considered to have no power. I vent here rather than voice it. Wondering how destructive the relationship is and if I should try to step in. I live far away and visit infrequently, what I see concerns me. And any suggestions are unwelcome because I'm "never here".
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Blannie, thank you for taking the time to try to understand what seems to be such a bland statement. The abuse is the implication that the older person needs care, and I am not that thrilled about providing it. Making someone feel dependent ("I take care of you") and implying you do it out of duty instead of desire ("other people will think:") It is part of a larger issue for me. Last night he (the elder) said "why do I bother waking up, noone needs me". The CG recognized the suicidal tone and responded sternly "because you have a family, and a legacy, and ..." I forget the phrasing but it was like telling him he was stupid to feel dejected instead of making him feel loved and needed. And he does tell him he loves him frequently, it is this overriding of someone else's feelings that annoys me. It may be my personal issues, hate it when someone says "you don't feel that way", also to hear "you shouldn't feel that way" is almost as bad. Tell my why I shouldn't maybe, but don't make me feel stupid. I have changed subjects, sorry, to finish the second thought, it was like he was more concerned about his own message being heard, rather than how the message would be received and its ultimate effect, which should be to make the person feel UNsuicidal. But he is playing the bad cop, and he does it a lot, feels it is necessary, and complains about being painted as the bad cop. aarggh. Relationships are never easy.
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Saying someone's coat is wrinkled is in the same vein to me as saying you have crumbs on your shirt. Saying a coat is wrinkled is a statement of fact, just like crumbs are. Both are easily corrected and not a big deal either way.

Saying that coat is ugly or the person's hairdo is ugly is more verbally abusive because they're opinions and more subjective and potentially hurtful.

I'm a bit unclear about which response is detrimental to the self image of the older person. Saying shut up? I never say that to anyone, old or young, because to me it's disrespectful.
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