- Aging & Longevity
Elderly Parents Living In Fear
Forms of Elderly Abuse
Subtle or blatant abuse of retired or elderly parents is a well-kept secret in most homes all over the world. In a few reported cases, it can be physical abuse where grown up men and women beat their parents.
There are various reasons why adult kids still live at home. Whatever they are, they do not justify maltreating their hosts, who are their parents.
Subtle abuse can be camouflaged as concern such as in one case where a son told the mother to cancel cable television and home phone because she was paying too much.
He said the family will call her on her mobile and she can watch movies on her computer. She lives alone and has never complained about the cost.
Economic abuse comes in many forms. It could be pressure to sell the family home or where elderly parents get a visit only when they receive their little pension.
Overheard in an elevator.
Question: So how are your kids and grandkids?
Answer: I don’t know but I suppose they will come and visit when I get my tax return.
Old Age homes have a bad rap for a variety of reasons. They are sometimes seen as places run by unscrupulous business people who do not do routine maintenance. This leads to headline news about fire and structural related accidents.
Old Age homes are also regarded as places where kids dump their parents, so that they can enjoy their youth or young families.
Daughters-in-law are sometimes labelled as culprits, who encourage sons to send their parents away.
Old Age homes are regarded as lonely places where the elderly have no friends.
This can be misleading because we don’t have the full picture. It might be the elderly themselves who decide that they want to go to such homes, so as to maintain their independence and dignity, such as deciding what they want to watch on television, when to take a walk, do their own shopping or take up a new interest like Tai Chi.
The need for independence is the foundation for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie, starring famous British actresses such as Judi Dench.
An interesting dialogue is when Sonny Kapoor the hotel manager (Dev Patel) suggests that old age is such a problem in Europe, governments might outsource their care to countries such as India.
Sounds far-fetched? It's a movie, but a possibility. The British government once sent convicts to what later became Australia.
Why Elderly Tolerate Abuse
Elderly parents know what is happening. They feel the abuse, the irritation in their kids’ voices when they talk to them. It hurts them deeply but they tolerate it for a variety of reasons.
- The most important is the need to see the grandchildren, to be part of their lives.
- The need to have something to say, when friends and neighbors talk about grandkids.
- The need to be included in special days like Thanksgiving, Christmas and special religious celebrations.
- The reliance on the daughter’s or son’s car to run errands and medical appointments.
- Or just plain love for their 30 year-old kids, even if they are obnoxious.
How To Avoid Abuse
The elderly is a blanket term. Senior citizens are not the same. Some are at an amazing level of fitness, such as Ernestine Shepherd, an American bodybuilder who is more than 70 years old.
Others use walkers, are overweight from lack of exercise, battling with arthritis or Alzheimer’s. Proper nutrition can be difficult if senior citizens rely on food stamps or canteen food.
The likelihood of abuse therefore mainly depends on mental and physical health. Senior citizens with poor health tend to be more vulnerable.
Elderly abuse by kids is cruel, but it is possible to minimize it by taking certain steps. They are not fool-proof, but worth a try.
You Are In Charge In Your Home
If you can still move around on your own, try and do the following.
Join a health club. It doesn’t have to be an elderly health facility. You might make friends with somebody young enough to be your daughter, but more lovable. Good health is the passport to independence and a life free of abuse from in-house kids.
Make it clear to them that you have your own schedule: being a volunteer at the hospital or school where you used to work, church, gardening, Tai Chi, painting or watching your favourite television shows. The television set happens to be yours, anyway.
Pay for services such as cabs so that you minimize dependence on your kids for transport. Alternatively, use public transport. Most cities have reliable bus or train systems. Be creative. Rent a limousine to take you shopping and a movie once a month. Organize two other people in your elderly group to maximise the fun. Ignore kids who say it is a waste of money.
Make it clear that babysitting must be arranged in advance, not at the spur of the moment. You respect their time. They must respect yours.
Bring professionals such as massage therapists and social workers to your home on a regular basis. You don’t have to wait for a crisis before you call social workers. This will make your kids think twice before abusing you.
Paint your home or make some renovations to assert the fact that the property is yours.
Get rid of your desktop computer and buy a laptop. Use it effectively or get some professional to come to your home and teach you. It is sad that some grandparents are expected to buy major electronic gadgets for grandkids, who do not have time to show them how to send a text or do an internet search.
Understand most of the features on your mobile phone, especially the camera. You will get a great sense of fulfilment from taking photos, or taking photos to use them as evidence of abuse.
Be unpredictable. Tell your kids in advance that you are travelling somewhere and will not be available to cook for Thanksgiving.
Update your will. Announce monthly meetings with your lawyer. That will keep your kids on their toes, because they want you to leave them something when you die.
What we discussed above still applies in an old age home or a place with assisted living facilities. The rule of thumb is to maintain your independence as much as possible.
Ask for help, if you cannot anymore.