Son kicks mum out of family home
A MOTHER invested $93,183 in a house to share with her family only to be locked out of the property and physically threatened.
The 66-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of further abuse, bought the property in Taradale in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay last year with her son.
The plan was for her to live in the bottom storey of the house and to share the kitchen.
But soon after moving in, her son's partner falsely accused her of stealing items and installed padlocks on the doors.
A kitchenette was installed in her part of the house without her approval and she was sent the bill. Her plants were torn out of the garden.
She was verbally and physically threatened by her son's partner, she said. On one occasion, she had a washing basket thrown at her.
"They got their dream home with the help of my money and now I can go to hell - that's how I see it," she said.
It is not an unusual situation. Age Concern, which is running an awareness campaign this week, says family members are responsible for three-quarters of elder abuse cases.
"You read about it and hear about it," the woman said. "And it does happen. But the saddest part is you don't expect your own son to do it to you, or let his partner do it to you. That's the gut-wrenching part of it."
The woman's son denied any mistreatment, telling other family members that she was lying and unstable.
An outgoing person, she said she became "quite sick" as a result of the abuse.
Her sister, a social worker, eventually intervened when she saw how the woman had deteriorated. She referred her to Age Concern.
A lawyer helped her get a protection order against her son's partner, which forbids them from coming on to her property. And she has been advised that, as a part-owner, she can force the sale of their house.
"I'm strong enough now to stand up to it," she said. "I'm not frightened anymore."
The woman has also changed her enduring power of attorney from her son to her sister.
"If I can't trust him in life, how can I trust him in death?"
Age Concern has been highlighting elder abuse in New Zealand this week in a bid to let abused people know how they can get help.
Chief executive Stephanie Clare said shame or stigma often prevented people from reporting abuse within their family.
"This is one of the reasons it stays hidden. Many older people feel ashamed their own flesh and blood are treating them badly, so they won't talk about it."
How do you reach elder abuse victims when their abusers often control their lives?
The New Zealand Government-run Office for Seniors confronted this problem in a campaign which wrapped up last week.
Elderly people in abusive relationships could be closely watched by their abusers, be kept at home, have their calls screened, and their outings limited.
But the Office for Seniors found a way to sneak into their homes unnoticed - through a crossword puzzle.
Over the past two weeks, the crosswords have been placed in 20 newspapers around the country, including the Herald.
Each one features one clue, such as "Controlling who an older person can talk to" and "Making an older person's decision for them".
They always have the same answer, "Abuse", and have a note referring them to the elder abuse hotline (0800 EA NOT OK).
The campaign has had some initial success, the Office for Seniors said. In the first week, the number of calls to the hotline rose 36 per cent.
The hotline was launched last year, and had 2100 calls and referrals in its first five months.