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.