Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can now be classified into:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional or psychological abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Financial exploitation
  • Healthcare fraud

Helpguide.org describes emotional or psychological abuse as ways of treating or speaking to elderly persons to cause distress through:

  • Intimidation through yelling or threats
  • Humiliation and ridicule
  • Habitual blaming or scapegoating
  • Ignoring the elderly person
  • Isolating an elder from friends or activities
  • Terrorizing or menacing the elderly person

Please visit Helpguide.org for a comprehensive explanation of all the different types of abuse. I came across this site while researching elder abuse in January 2017, and I’d say it is what spurred me to start this blog.

Mercy’s Experience

My grandmother Mercy moved to the US in February 2006 to live with Son 1. The plan was for her to divide her time between his and Son 2’s homes. However, the situation was the typical daughters-in-law not wanting the mother-in-law in their house. She was subjected to emotional abuse in both homes; and at one point, was physically assaulted by DIL 1. I know Son 1 had to threaten his wife to back off, but no charges were ever pressed. The thought would never occur to my grandmother; her main concern would have been sparing the mother of her young grandkids.

After that incident, she spent most of her time in her Son 2’s home, where the abuse by the DIL 2 was more insidious. Knowing that my mother and I are outspoken about the issues festering in the family, my grandmother was eventually denied our calls. She was occasionally allowed to make calls on our birthdays or anniversaries, where she would ask us why we never call, not realising that our calls were blocked or diverted straight to voice mail.

There was an instance where DIL 2’s parents arrived to stay with them too. One phone which used to be kept in my grandmother’s room was then taken and kept in theirs, and they could stay in touch with their other children, but my grandmother was denied contact with hers.

My grandmother also told me how after Son 2 would leave for work and his kids left for school, his wife would spend the day ignoring her completely, not saying a word to her, often walking around with a scowl on her face and slamming doors.

Now my grandmother is the epitome of good hospitality and graciousness, a kind-hearted, gentle soul whose home is always open to family and friends, whose heart holds love for everyone she knows and who only wants to be loved in return. She just couldn’t take this kind of treatment.

However, she had another option. My sister had moved to the US in November 2013. Over the next few months, she repeatedly emailed and left messages for Son 2 to say that she was living in Chicago and hoping for our grandmother to come stay with her for a while. Total silence. Six months later, the day my mother emailed her siblings to say she’d be visiting Chicago too, within a few hours, he sent a terse mail to say that my grandmother would be relocating to Mumbai permanently. To look after her flat, was the excuse given. It was a unilateral decision taken by Son 2 and his wife, without consulting any of his siblings. My grandmother was a green card holder; if you remain outside the US for over six months consecutively, it lapses. I’m not familiar with US immigration rules, but I don’t imagine it’d be easy to get her another one. So Son 2 and his wife have effectively blocked her from re-entering the US, except perhaps as a visitor.

She has no response when I ask her why she did not stay with my sister. Because the truth is, my sister couldn’t be in Chicago permanently. Either due to a new job, or marriage, or when her visa expired, she would have to leave Chicago at some point even if that took a few years. And then my grandmother would have to return to Son 2’s house. And no matter what, DIL 2 wanted her out of there for good and Son 2 goes along with his wife’s dictates. My grandmother knows this, and feels the pain of him not standing up for her. But as she refuses to be dependant on her sons-in-law, and believes Son 2 is now her only financial support, she won’t voice any protests against him.

If you ask her why she relocated to Mumbai in May 2014, she’ll firmly tell you it was her decision alone, that she wasn’t coerced into it, that she came out of concern for her flat. She wants to save Son 2’s reputation and so, often covers up for him. That’s the facade she puts up for the general public, because the truth is too hurtful for her to acknowledge.

You may say, stuff like this and far worse happens everywhere, and people somehow just cope with it. Agreed. But just because that is how it is in so many households, does it mean this is how it should continue? Please read the information on abuse at Helpguide.org. It gave me chills. So much of what is written there applies to my grandmother and her situation. Maybe you too might start to see these issues in a new light.

There is a vital distinction to be made here: occasional family arguments and bad behaviour which people apologise for is one thing, and behaviour that is deliberately, consistently and unabashedly aimed at hurting a person, or making them feel unwanted is another. The latter is abuse. It is wrong on every level. I know better than to continue keeping quiet about it now. You, the person reading this, also knows better now. Please share this message so that we can help to stop this kind of abuse, not just for my grandmother, but all who are in this vulnerable position.