by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
February 17, 2003
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO PREVENT ELDER ABUSE
SAN DIEGO --- We were out on the deck of the mountain cabin having wine and talking out of earshot of her father. His daughter was telling me of the woman who had swooped in on him after her mother's death two years previously. In those two years, this woman had systematically taken control and isolated him from his three daughters.
When the reports from the town's people began to reach the daughters that their father was being verbally abused in public, they decided to do something.
That intervention had happened several months ago. The daughters had all confronted this woman and insisted she leave their family home. The father whose emotions were still entangled had mixed feelings about all of this but he knew better than to argue with his three headstrong daughters.
Then the eldest daughter decided to come home and help her Dad while he weaned himself from the toxic substance that was his girlfriend. Only he hadn't exactly kicked the habit. He was still seeing her, and talking to her nightly.
While we discussed the situation, looking out over the fog rolling up the mountainside and over the pine trees, which surrounded the property, a car pulled into the driveway.
The dogs went crazy. My friend walked briskly to meet the stranger who was behind the garage out of my sight. Loud voices told me what I intuitively knew: it was the girlfriend.
"Get off this property now!" my friend said in a commanding voice.
"I have meat for the dogs," whined the woman said as she tried to push past the Amazon at the backyard gate.
My friend stood her ground. The shouting match went on for nearly 10 minutes with Cruella DeVille using every piece of dirty family laundry she'd ever heard to gain advantage over the younger woman.
It was like watching a pit bull going up against a lion. Had the daughter been smaller and less fierce this woman would have disemboweled her easily with her slick and evil tools but as it was, the fight ended when my friend went to call the police.
The dark-haired woman in her late fifties went skulking off in her Buick into the foggy night no doubt to watch and wait for another opportunity to get back into a lonely old man's life.
Thanks to the daughters, she hadn't gotten her name on property deeds or bank accounts and wills. According to the local police department, other elders in the town hadn't been so lucky.
This story is repeated in every city in our country. Without the protective barrier reef of family and friends, many of our elders become victims of the predators that live in every community waiting for the chance to worm themselves into aching and tired hearts.
A predator will look at your father or your mother and see only opportunity for gain. If there is a vacuum in family attentiveness, they will lodge themselves firmly in that gap. To make things more difficult, if this person can gain the elder's trust and develop a strong bond with them, it often is the elder themselves that prevents or works against those trying to help them out of a very dangerous situation.
In this case, the daughter with support and counsel found the strength to parent her father like a little boy who didn't understand the implications of playing with fire.
This man is fortunate to have a daughter who'll go to the mat for him even when he doesn't want her to. Not everyone's loved ones are as tenacious.
When our elders are alone, the community as they did in this case, must keep a vigilant eye not only for blatant abuse, physical and verbal but also for the red flags of inordinate love. It can be a mercenary floozy, a suddenly devoted mechanic or gardener, and parasitic neighbors who wrap the dependent, frightened elder up in their Web of "helpfulness" and live off their resources.
Maintaining a healthy network of contacts in the community, especially when family is gone or geographically removed, is vitally important in the prevention of elder abuse. When our elders cannot do this for themselves it is up to us to reach out to them.