⋅Elder Abuse⋅

When we think of domestic violence, we think of a male partner or husband attacking his female partner or wife. But domestic violence also takes other very ugly forms, like adults who abuse vulnerable older adults, or elder abuse.

Elder abuse includes sexual abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, neglect, and physical abuse. All elder abuse is grossly underreported, and financial abuse goes the most underreported of all forms of elder abuse.

Helen’s Story – Part 1

When Helen was young, she was a firecracker. She was meticulous about her finances and her home. She was the family’s bookkeeper and a stay-at-home wife even after her children grew up. But she lost interest in everything after losing her husband of 40 years. Her two children lived nearby, but they both worked full time and could not take care of her on a daily basis, and Helen didn’t require that level of care. She had no disabilities.

Her husband had left her very well set with a generous income from two pensions plus her social security, and her lovely home was completely paid for. She also had her husband’s 401K, which had over $80,000 in it.

Her only dependency was her inability to drive. Her daughter Kay stopped in on the weekends to pay her bills, balance her checkbook, and take her to buy her groceries, and her son Tim took care of her yard.

However, Helen had never in her life lived alone, and she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was lonely and bored. Helen’s profound loneliness and depression made her an easy target for someone like Pat.

Within a very short time, Pat, Helen’s daughter-in-law, insinuated herself deeply into Helen’s life by offering the companionship Helen craved and by subtly making Helen feel more dependent than she actually was. Pat gradually began spending more time with Helen before and after driving her to doctor’s appointments and to run errands. She began cooking Helen’s meals for her, cleaning her home, managing her prescriptions, taking her shopping, and doing her laundry.

Over time, she subtly planted deep doubt and suspicion in Helen’s mind, suggesting that Kay didn’t want to help her and didn’t care about her.

She reinforced her deadly web by drawing an even uglier picture of Kay to Helen’s neighbors, acquaintances, and medical professionals.

Over time, the bitter seeds Pat planted in Helen’s fragile mind began to fester, and Helen’s relationship with Kay became very strained.

Once Pat gained Helen’s complete trust, Helen turned over her bill-paying to Pat against her daughter’s strong advice.

Pat’s final step was to move Helen into her and Tim’s home. Kay begged her mother not to move, not to give up her independence, but Helen was firmly persuaded that Tim and Pat loved her and wanted only to pamper and protect her and that Kay had abandoned her.

Helen’s decision would be fatal.

The Early Signs of Elder Abuse

Right before the move, Kay grew very suspicious when she went to her mother’s home one day and tried to talk to her mother alone. They spoke in whispers to keep their conversation private because Pat was there, lingering nervously near the bedroom door and constantly finding trivial reasons to enter the bedroom, interrupt their conversation, and linger.

“I just don’t want to live alone anymore, and they’re doing so much for me. They’re remodeling the two bedrooms in their home so that I have a bedroom and a sitting room.”

“Mom, where are they getting money for that? Tim just borrowed money from you last week to fix his truck. Pat refuses to work. Tim tells me constantly how hard things are, how Pat’s spending is out of control, how deep in debt he is. Where is this ‘remodeling’ money coming from?”

“I don’t know. I just know that what they’re doing for me is wonderful.”

When Kay asked Pat to give them some time alone, Pat stormed out of the house. When Kay went to the kitchen to get her mother something to drink, she noticed that Pat’s car was still in the driveway. After a few minutes, she saw Pat get out of the car and come toward the front door. As Pat crept quietly back into the house, Kay returned to her mother’s room and made small talk while Pat stood silently in the hall listening, thinking no one knew she was there. When Kay confronted her, Pat pretended she had returned to retrieve something she had forgotten.

Kay grew angry and asked Pat to leave. Again, Pat stormed out of the house like a child in the throes of a temper tantrum.

Kay had never liked Pat, and Pat knew it. The tension between them was palpable.

Pat was a congenital liar.

She referred to herself as an “off-duty nurse” and a “registered nurse” but had absolutely no medical training – or any other kind of training. She told Kay’s family that she had a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but she had never even attended college. She was also fluent in German, cheer captain in high school, and the daughter of a school teacher – all lies. Pat was adept at one thing: creating a persona and convincing the grossly unobservant of its veracity.

Pat was also a thief and a drug addict.

Kay had once lent Tim $1,000 so that he could make his payroll after Pat forged a check, taking it very cleverly from the back of Tim’s checkbook so that Tim would not notice the missing check until it was too late. She refused to work and had a marijuana habit that, according to Tim, cost him $400 a week. Tim incredulously defended her by saying that she did have “a little part-time job delivering marijuana for a friend.”

“You mean a dealer, don’t you?” snapped Kay.

Tim was unrelenting in his defense of Pat. He was a gentle, good man with a good heart, but he was a moral coward when it came to Pat. He would lament for hours about her and then staunchly defend her and do absolutely nothing to change his life with her.

Pat had tried hard to win Kay over and establish herself as a real “daughter” in Tim’s family. But Kay could not be won over. Kay saw through Pat and exposed her fabrications to the whole family, which enraged and embarrassed Pat. Pat’s childish and lethal response was to slowly and patiently poison Helen’s mind against her only daughter and Tim’s only sister, the person whom Pat saw as the “golden child.” Now was Pat’s chance to supplant her.

A deep sense of foreboding came over Kay, but it was unconscionable that even Pat could do anything this sinister.

Kay asked to see her mother’s checkbook.

“It’s in the desk drawer,” her mother said, pointing to the desk in the corner of her bedroom, “but please don’t touch it. Pat will get angry.”

“Mother, it’s your money! What do you mean ‘Pat will get angry’”?

“You don’t know her the way I do. It’s just easier this way. I just can’t stand the confrontations,” Helen responded.

Kay was struggling hard with her own feelings of guilt for not being attentive enough to her mother’s needs. She reasoned that Pat had stepped in where she had failed and maybe she was judging Pat—and Tim—too harshly. Tragically, Kay let those feelings cloud the glaring truth, begging to be noticed before it was too late…



Join us Friday for the Continuation and for information on Elder Abuse, who is at risk, how to recognize the signs, and how to get help if if you are being abused, or if you suspect someone you know is being abused.


Remember, in an emergency, call 911 or the local police department. If you believe abuse has occurred or is occurring, call the ElderCare Locator service at 800-677-1116 to be connected with your local Adult Protective Services Office.

Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment