Police have today shared a heartbreaking and confronting story about a Queensland family in a bid to raise awareness of Elder Abuse.
We arrive in the early hours of the morning, just as the night haze is lifting. We’re met at the front door by an elderly lady, her hair in short, tight curls. She opens the door ever so gently, clearly trying not to make a sound, and then speaks in the softest of tones. She is immediately apologetic for calling us, sorry for “wasting” our time, and appeared as though she wished she hadn’t called at all. But she is desperate.
Her elderly husband meets us in the kitchen and they silently point outside to where their 40-something-year-old daughter is sitting. They have been up all night and are yet to go to bed; too fearful to sleep and too anxious to try.
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From the first moment she sees us, she is aggressive. Apparently this is an almost permanent state of being and not just some special show put on for us. She comes into the kitchen and stands over her tiny parents. She demands they be quiet as they make a cup of tea and I watch as they stir without hitting the sides of the cup – afraid that the slight noise would set her off. She calls them stupid, useless and laughs at their obvious fear.
She pushes past us and goes to the main bedroom of the house – her room. Her mother tells me that her daughter had insisted that she have the master bedroom in the family home when they recently moved in, and they were too afraid not to oblige. As a parent my self, I begin to wonder how this switch in authoritative roles occurs.
We follow her into her bedroom and there is a hole in the wall, the en-suite door handle torn off, clothing is strewn around the room and a broken chair is in a corner. She paces around the house, swears and hurls abuse at her parents, and us. She is displaying signs of being affected by a substance and subsequently appears to be having some form of resulting episode. But this apparently is the norm for her. After our initial observations, we detain her for other matters.
After placing her into the police vehicle, we speak to her parents again inside the house. The change in their demeanor is instant, a weight has been lifted. They apologise over and over for having to call us out, and they apologise repeatedly for their daughter’s behaviour.
When family members are involved, as per this incident, elder abuse can be domestic violence. At times the lines between elder abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness can be blurred. One is often the subsequent result of the other.
Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Queensland Government says “Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. It can be emotional, psychological, financial, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect.”
If you suspect that someone you know is experiencing this type of abuse, call the Seniors Helpline on 1300 651 192 or Policelink on 131 444.