When you hear the term "victim of abuse" who do you picture? Someone being beaten or otherwise mistreated by their partner
, a child or teenager being harmed, threatened,
or neglected by their parents
? Yes these are all real, and horrible, truths. However, there are others who can frequently find themselves victims of abuse, and what is one such group in society that does often find themselves in this scenario?
The elderly. Older people are often vulnerable, especially those who have Alzheimers or some other form of dementia, or who have communication issues which can make it difficult or even impossible for them to speak out against their abusers. Even older people who don't have dementia or other issues can sometimes find it difficult to get out of such a scenario, especially if their abuser is a primary caregiver and they have mobility problems. Then there's the fact that their abusers could be their children, and their natural parental instinct to protect their child, and therefore resist the urge to report the situation to the authorities, could very well be in play.
Like any other abuse there are several different types of elder abuse. The most frequent definition is given as "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person"
and the subtypes are by and large the same ones as within Abusive Parents
and Domestic Abuse
. As with those, they can overlap:
- Physical Abuse - hitting, striking, spitting at, or other physical force used against an elderly person
- Verbal Abuse - swearing at, belittling, and demeaning an older person
- Emotional and Psychological Abuse - manipulating someone's emotions so that they do things for you, or making them feel terrible about themselves, playing mind games
- Financial Abuse - stealing money or valuables, either directly or by blackmail or coercion
- Neglect - Simply ignoring their needs, be that their physical needs or their mental and emotional ones
- Sexual abuse - Rape and sexual coercion of the elderly
As well, scam artists
often prey on the elderly, as they can be emotionally vulnerable, might not be Genre Savvy
with such things as email scams
, and tend to have a bit of money put aside for retirement, making them easily exploitable targets.
When elder abuse appears on television it can be portrayed in several different ways. Sometimes it appears in a "Very Special Episode
" manner, written in by the creators to attempt to highlight the issue. Other times there are cases where it is Played for Laughs
, used as a throwaway joke and forgotten about — the primary type in this category tends to be neglect and sometimes verbal abuse.
Fairy Tales and Mythology
- A Tokyo Babylon story has Subaru befriending an old man who is being subjected to this by his daughter Sachiko. She thinks her old father is a total burden on her middle-to-low class family and says so out loud, which in turn causes a lot of distress to the old man. When the old man dies in an accident, Sachiko is horrified.
- The old fable in which a man kicks his elderly father out of the house with only half a blanket. He then sees his son tearing a blanket in half, and when the father asks why, "One day you too will be old."
- The Ballad of Narayama: Takes this trope to the extreme by depicting the ancient Japanese myth of "obasute", in which old people are taken up a mountainside and left there to die after they reach 70.
- Seven Pounds: Tim decides against donating one of his organs to a retirement home director after finding out the home mistreats their patients.
- In Happy Gilmore, Happy's grandmother ends up in a retirement home run by a sadistic orderly. He not only verbally abuses the residents, but forces them to make knock off wallets as well.
- This is what causes the conflict of Thunder and The House Of Magic - an elderly magician's real estate agent nephew tricks his uncle into signing over his house after ending up in hospital following an accident and it's up to the magician's recently adopted kitten to stop the nephew from selling the house.
- In A Brother's Price an old woman mentions that she still beats her younger (but old) sisters if they don't obey, and complains she can't hit them as hard as before, because they break so easily now. It's played for laughs, and not quite clear how bad she really is; she seems like a Cool Old Lady. (It is normal that the eldest sister is in charge, but this is usually not enforced with violence). In a darker example, there is also the Porters, who murder their mothers when they become senile and scatterbrained.
- The verbal, psychological, financial, and physical abuse of Sandy by his son, the local vicar, Ashley in Emmerdale was a story arc.
- The Golden Girls has an episode that focuses on elder abuse.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Eventually Francis gets Commandant Edwin Spangler fired as the head of his Military School but then gets him placed in a retirement home instead where he proceeds to engage in elder abuse as per his sadist tendencies.
- In the ER episode "Refusal of Care" Abby suspects one patient, an elderly woman on hunger strike attempting to prevent the deportation of her son, is a victim of this when said son shows up and appears to care little about the woman's predicament.
- Elder abuse has been the theme/motif of many an episode of various Law & Order series' episodes.
- The X-Files episode "Excelsis Dei" was about an eponymous nursing home where the residents were often mentally and sometimes physically abused by the staff. A few get a rather supernatural form of revenge though.
- Dóris in the Brazilian soap opera Mulheres Apaixonadas was famous for abusing her grandparents.
- One episode of One Foot in the Grave featured Victor, Grumpy Old Man par excellence, helping to liberate a bunch of rest home residents from their cruel caretakers, in his personal Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- A major story arc in the first season of Better Call Saul is Jimmy's investigation of a shady nursing home's fleecing its residents through deceptive billing practices. He ultimately launches a class action lawsuit on their behalf for $20 million.
- Pathfinder: The Stag Lord, Starter Villain of the Kingmaker adventure path keeps his elderly father, Nugrah, in a cage, and regularly beats and abuses him. This is in a large part revenge for the horrific abuse that Nugrah himself doled out on his son while he was growing up.
- God of War 2 gets the player to partake in elder abuse via a quick time event in which you have to brutally beat and kill a helpless protesting elderly scholar in order to get him to read a book you can't.
- Open Sorcery has this happen to Mrs. Best, an elderly woman in a nursing home. Her family largely neglects her until money gets involved, and about midway through the game they try to (possibly successfully) murder her.
- In the The Simpsons sometimes shows the Springfield Retirement Castle where Abe "Grandpa" Simpson lives as having rather neglectful staff in many episodes when it comes to the residents' emotional needs, in one episode the staff even destroy the Wii Lisa gave them. Also the Simpsons family would seemingly be happy to leave Grandpa in there and never see him at all, at one point Homer even tried to light a pile of junk on fire, which his dad was buried in. It was implied he knew his father was in said pile of junk.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode "Secret Admiral-irer," Tina begins spending time with a senile nursing home resident named Meryl, who's nephew Joel shows up every week tricking her into thinking it's his birthday so she'll write him a check. He gets busted by Sgt. Bosco in the end.