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Coming Full Circle: Taking Care of Your Abusive Parent in Old Age

By HERWriter Guide
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you've come full circle, taking care of your abusive parent in old age Monkey Business/PhotoSpin

The New York Times Magazine online had a really interesting article written by psychiatrist Mark E. Agronin, M.D. who works with elderly residents, some of whom reside in nursing homes.

The elderly arrive, presumably to finish out their lives being cared for physically, medically, emotionally and socially by a qualified staff of caregivers.

Agronin provided insight in his article about the difficulties of dealing with the adult children of elderly parents they claim were abusive.

He's not doubting their stories. Child abuse is known to be rampant in this country. He talks about the changes seen once these parents become old and frail and the adult children are now strong and capable.

Gone is the frightening monster who hit, beat, sexually abused, or psychologically harmed their children. Now that abuser, be it the father or mother, is old, frail, weak and sometimes powerless.

The power has come down from parent to adult child. Some grown children simply walk away with orders not to be contacted until the parent dies. (Having worked in nursing facilities myself, I can attest to this.) Others visit only occasionally.

This can seem cruel to those on the outside. Picture an old, white-haired lady sitting placidly in her chair, calming watching television and thanking staff for her glass of water.

Then picture her forty years before, beating her children, forcing them into actions that would scar them for life, denying them food or proper shelter and using words that hurt even more than the belts and rods she used to beat them with. A woman with two lives, that only her children see.

Child abuse can lead to depression in adults, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and a host of other conditions, including brain changes, physical affects and changes in the way their immune system works.

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EmpowHER Guest

My mom is a flip flopper. She can be a caring person who will give her last dime to someone she thinks needs it. Then she'll turn 180 degrees. Like many boomers, I grew up with physical punishment and don't feel any worse for most of that since for the most part it wasn't severe whippings. The emotional abuse, head games, and manipulations on the offspring is what leaves the deep scars.

Now she have been living with me for over two years. Most of the time it's okay. She much nicer now that she's frail and in need of some assistance. She still has flip flops; she still tries to be puppet master; and she still tries to play head games.

I'm at the point where I have to make her either, 1) find someplace else to live (my brother will have nothing to do with her; my sister is 2,000 miles away and probably will refuse to take her); or my mom is going to have to choose an attorney or elder advocate to advice her to negotiate with me to obtain a durable power of attorney. She doesn't trust me and turns on me, yet I am the only person who will still go around (or....accept her into my home since she lives with me). I won't abandon her, but I I can no longer jeapordize my own mental health for this Dr. Jeykle and Ms. Hyde.

Just don't know what else I can do. I am used up.

August 28, 2012 - 9:48am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.