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Elder Abuse

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 care giver 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 and 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 someones emotions so that they do things for you or by 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

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. However other times there are cases where it is Played for Laughs, used as a throw away joke and forgotten about - the primary type in this category tends to be neglect and sometimes verbal abuse.


Examples:

Fairy Tales and Mythology
  • 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."

Film
  • 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.

Live-Action Television
  • 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.

Video Games
  • 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 eldery scholar in order to get him to read a book you can't.

Western Animation
  • 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.


Dysfunctional FamilyFamily TropesEmancipated Child
Bumbling DadDysfunctional Family IndexEvil Matriarch
Eccentric MentorEldersElderly Blue-Haired Lady
Doting ParentParental IssuesEvil Matriarch
Drill Sergeant NastyAbuse TropesFinancial Abuse
Education MamaThe Parent TropeEmbarrassing Old Photo
EmmerdaleImageSource/Live-Action TVThe Facts of Life

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