Monday, February 9, 2009

A different type of Elder Abuse

A different  type of Elder Abuse

Every June, when World Elder Abuse Day is observed, we hear a number of stories in the media about elderly people being abused. One gets to read parents being driven out of the house by children, nursing home staff ill treating older persons suffering from dementia, children and relatives grabbing some oldies' property and so on. This social malaise has become so noticeable that the Government of India has enacted "Parents and Senior citizens Maintenance and protection Act" in 2007. This has been implemented in 17 states and five union territories. The law makes it obligatory on the part of children and others to take care of senior citizens financially and to provide shelter and food. Failure to do so may invite a month's imprisonment.

However I am going to talk about a slightly different type of Elder Abuse. This is abuse of sons, daughters, SIL / DIL and other younger members of a family by senior citizens. Yes, this too keeps happening time and again. I shall narrate just one such case.

Srilatha (name changed) from a middle class family got married to a relatively rich bridegroom. The MIL  did not approve of the alliance from the beginning. The MIL's  ill treating the DIL started from Day one. The MIL was extremely clever and resorted to bad treatment of DIL only when they were alone and nothing could ever be noticed as happening at all. She posed a totally innocent picture to the son and others.  Added to this she would add fuel to the fire by showering complaints against the DIL.  The Son (husband of Srilatha) also had the old timer's views that a DIL should listen to MIL. For him, wife was only after mother in order or priorities. He would never believe whatever the wife complained and simply brushed aside all such complaints and insisted that she obey his mother.  

This went on for decades. MIL lost her husband who was a doting and highly protective husband.  Eventually she became a senior citizen and tuned into a cruel menacing type. Losing her husband she felt lonely and started abusing her son too. As Srilatha's husband retired he had more time to spend at home and started observing things happening at close quarters. He came to realize how his mother in reality a different, bad and intolerable. He once saw with his own eyes her spitting into Rasam before DIL ( last one to eat) was just about to take her lunch. She did so to make her DIL  go hungry without food for some back answering. He too became the target of her tantrums. Like the wife, the husband (son) also could not discuss with others about their problems because of the fear:  "What would others say?"

The MIL, as a senior citizen, became bed ridden due to a number of illnesses. All problems heightened, including incontinence. Mil would not co-operate with anyone. She will always be complaining that nobody is caring for her. She would eye everyone with suspicion. She would concoct stories of abuse and tell every visitor. We should remember that care givers themselves are at this point of time senior citizens.

The old lady had another son. Both sons used to keep the oldie alternately for a few months each. The younger son too knew that his mother was a bad woman but he was bound by duty to take care of her. Both the sons never grudged caring for her in terms of: food, medicines, money, physical care etc . But they did not have any love / affection either.

Once all the members of the family had to go for a wedding. They locked all the rooms (lots of cash & jewelry was kept in those rooms brought by other guests) and left this old woman in a front room with a servant to care for her. Though she was quite capable of using the toilet attached to that room (she had help at hand too) she refused to use the toilet and made a mess of the whole passage by shitting and urinating everywhere. This was her way of taking revenge for locking her out of her own normal bedroom!  Wedding lunch was packed and sent to her in time by a special messenger. She did not touch it. That was when the house was full of guests!

Finally she died at 85 plus much to the relief of everyone. I know of a few more cases but would like to tell them at a different time.  What is your opinion of this type of "Reverse Elder Abuse"? Society always expects the son / daughter to care for elders, never bothering about real problems. Should Old Age be respected even in such cases?



Dr P Vyasamoorthy, 30, Gruhalakshmi Colony,
Secunderabad 500015. Ph: LL: 040-27846631 Cell: 9490804278 I blog at:

1 comment:

  1. Such olders should not be respected but treated firmly by both sons and should not allow themselves & their wives to suffer at such olders`hands.