Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse

There was a recent report on NPR about the growing problem of elder abuse. Several stories were told, two of which not only angered me, but brought me to tears.

One in 10 elderly Americans experiences some form of abuse or neglect, according to the National Council on Aging. That can be physical injuries, emotional assaults, willful deprivation, financial exploitation. Victims often have to leave their homes for care, then risk being preyed upon again if they return. NPR report

The first story was about a woman named Janet Jones who lives in a small apartment, almost bedridden. Her survival is dependent upon her monthly social security check, which her daughter-in-law cashes for her. Unfortunately, until recently, Ms Jones received only a small portion of her check from her daughter-in-law, who pocketed the rest and, because the amount Janet was given was just enough sustain life, she became malnourished.

The other story was about a son, an addict, who stole his mother’s prosthetic leg in order sell it to buy drugs. This would be funny if it weren’t pathetically true. (The NPR story was about an elder shelter that has been created, which discovered Ms Jone’s and her predicament and helped her and also bought the addict’s mother a new prosthetic leg.)

I was very upset by the reported behaviors of these people who exploited their own mothers and mothers-in law for their personal pathological gains. I couldn’t help but draw some parallels to my own life:

– I’m elderly (not old old yet, but in my early 70’s).

– I have been scapegoated, emotionally assaulted, deprived of the love of family, specifically my son and grandchildren.

– My daughter-in-law robbed me: She took my grandchildren, told malicious lies about me and manipulated my son,    turning him against me. 

– My son and daughter-in-law have abandoned me and left me traumatized and emotionally devastated.

I’m happy to hear that there are activists who are bringing this terrible problem of elder abuse out of the darkness. It’s long past due and mistreatment of the elderly needs to stop. It’s beyond comprehension how humans can willingly do such harm to not only their family, but to their fellow humans. How is such selfish cruelty and sociopathic neglect even possible, let alone so prevalent in our society?

But, even as I write this, I feel powerless to change my own situation as an abused mother and elder. Even though my son was taught to be respectful to his elders, to his family, to me, he simply isn’t interested in anything I have to say. He shows no real empathy for the pain he has caused me. I don’t know how he could deliberately hurt his own mother so deeply, or how he could willingly succumb to the jurisdiction of a sick, selfish wife or how he can choose to be so weak, so unkind, so entitled. And, I certainly don’t know how to change it.

The brain is a funny thing. We often justify our behavior, even when it’s wrong. Our adult children, our alienators, often choose to believe lies – lies they tell themselves and the lies of others. They choose to spend their lives pretending they’re doing what’s best for the kids, for the family, for the spouse, for the love of country or whatever the hell they tell themselves. But it doesn’t make it good, ethical, or right. It only means that their minds are on a dark, disturbing track because  they are living a lie. And, sadly, I believe their souls are in trouble.

I fear getting old, not because I’m afraid of the process, or of dying. I’m afraid because I have a son who is indifferent and neglectful and a daughter-in-law who only means to annihilate me. And that is a terrible state of affairs.

One thing’s for sure, I will not be trusting my daughter-in-law with my social security check.

6 thoughts on “Elder Abuse”

  • I think there is a type of lunacy in this dismissal and disrespect it seems, especially from the daughters-in-low towards the mothers.
    On what planet would we not be calling this emotional and psychological abuse if it was happening from a son-in law towards a daughter, her children and and her family?
    Somehow since it is towards the son and the mother in law there seems to be this underlying “rolling of the eyes” —like mothers in law and sons should just “buck up ” “get over it” and “drop dead”. It’s cruel, awful, and nuts. I feel sad for my son and his brainwashing.
    Children need all their family members and a family dynamic of love, understanding, compassion and care, When they do not see this extended to their whole family, from my observation and experience, they either become bigoted towards others from the example (like we need more of that) or angry that their parent withheld the family member from their “knowing”.
    Only the future will tell which path this dysfunctional and mean pattern takes, but in the meantime, all we mothers can do is try to soothe our souls, find compassion and figure out a way to grow through our anger so that we can still love the sons if they ever do show up. The damage is immense and life altering. And that is an understatement, at least for me. My compassion, tears and heartfelt caring goes out to all you other mothers who are suffering this way. We need each other, and we need to make more love around us.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I couldn’t express it better than you have. I really appreciate your sharing and your valuable insights.
      Sending you blessings and healing.

  • I don’t think we could ever believe that one day our baby could turn out to have a bad moral character or do such harm or be a thief or a murderer. But, this happens. We don’t know what is hidden in those genes or what genes get activated in life, or how life’s stresses affect our child, or our children.

    Dr. Joshua Coleman said something yesterday: your adult son is doing the best he can right now just as you did the best you could rasising him. And are doing the best you can right now. It sounds Pollyanna-ish, but maybe it’s true.

    We could all do better, perhaps.

    What troubles me most, I think, is the amorphous mystery of why my son and especially my daughter-in-law are treating me in such a foul manner. How and why did I become an evil pariah? Perhaps there is mental illness directing the script, I really do think so.

    I want one simple explanation to hang my hat on, so I don’t feel the need to ruminate ad nauseum in order to “process” the latest slap in the face.

    But most of all I want the energy and determination and courage to say in as compassionate yet pithily way as possible that I will always be there for my son and always love him, but I cannot tolerate hostile things said to me. It’s just not right.

    What I’m afraid. That any rasising of my head will result in another camnpaign by my daughter in law to hurt me. It would be cutting me off from writing letters and sending gifts to my grandchildren.

    But writing letters and sending gifts is already so painful that maybe I shouldn’t fear it.

    On another note, I went to the Area on Aging office in my county and talked about having a professional handle my medical needs and be an executor of my will. That was a chilling and comforting experience all at once. There are resources out there. I also have a much younger close friend to whom I could trust with helping me.

    My other son is stable and not a raving lunatic right now, but time will tell if he maintains this.

    No one prepares you for what could come with your adorable baby forty years later. I guess the hardest part is being in the background and somewhat stoic, like Buddha, non-violent toward oneself and others. How to stay in balance, how to say: I don’t really know and I may never know and that’s that. How to love without self-destruction. How to struggle with this and survive in one piece, without chronic stress which isn’t good for the body.

    All we have is the moment, the now, righ now. I can take a breath and clear my mind from an imagined top of a beautiful mountain. I can watch the crows soar at sunset and message them my admiration. I can send hope to my son and his family that their stress in life lessens or that they seek psychological help. I send hope to the future that I can let go of what needs to be loosened and set free, even though the tie between child and mother will never come undone.

    Face the worst fear and see the good that may appear despite the circumstances. It’s all in beautiful moments.

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