Real stories: Senior abuse 47



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After the recent series on elder abuse, I received an email from one our Starts at 60 community which told a horrible and distressing story of physical abuse of an elderly person.

For the sake of privacy and anonymity of the persons involved, and in consultation with the author, I have changed names and places, otherwise the story is as told to me.

This story is doubly sad because the elderly person was bashed by her daughter, a woman suffering from her own mental problems. Partly it shows how “the system” can fail.


“I think I was secretly in love with a much older woman when I was in my early teens. I know that it made my day whenever I saw her; my heart did loops at any time she smiled and spoke. I’d have been all of 13/14 and she a married woman of around 27. Katy was a petite, pretty blonde possessed of a delightful figure (something I am now able to mention. It would have made me so embarrassed back then, even admitting I gave it any thought!). I do recall my uncle saying one day that he reckoned she was ‘a pretty good sort’ and being totally jealous of him for intruding into what I most likely thought a private realm!

I married, moved interstate; it took a number of years, before I returned to my home state. Out house hunting one day, a voice nearby spoke to me by name. I turned and found a very attractive middle-aged woman smiling at me. She looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t immediately put a name to her. Even when she said, “I’m Katy,” it meant little to me. That matter resolved itself when she said, “You were always the polite young man who called me Mrs T.” Introductions made, telephone number gained, we went our separate ways. My wife thought her a delightful person and that’s how a close relationship developed.

Through circumstance, we ended up living one town and 10 kilometres away from Katy. She and her husband had gone their separate ways years earlier. They had two daughters and, although I grew up all but next door to the family, I was unaware there were developing problems with the younger girl, Ann. As she grew, Ann was diagnosed paranoid-schizophrenic. The husband – and how often is this the case! – was unable to cope so departed the scene.

That’s a long introduction but provides some inkling of how the following affected me.

Ann lives in a home where appropriate care and medication are provided. She is able to visit her mother but only ever with a carer present. Even on meds, she is marginal. Katy is aware of this, of course, but was surprised and delighted when Ann arrived on her doorstep a couple of months ago, on her own. Some supposedly intelligent supervisor decided, on a whim, that Ann should be allowed a free day release. There’s only one place she knows to go, her mother’s unit, so that’s where she went. It took only seconds for Katy to realise the mistake she made opening the door to her daughter.

There is a heavy ornament on a stand in Katy’s lounge. Ann grabbed it and swung it at her mother’s head, with force. Katy, now 88 and suffering chronic osteoarthritis, could do nothing to defend herself and took the full force of the blow on her head. Ann apparently left immediately. Thankfully, because the front door was left open, arousing the interest of a neighbour, it was only about an hour before Katy was discovered lying unconscious on the floor. Paras arrived within a few minutes of the 000 call, stabilised her and got her off to hospital.

The poor woman suffered a fractured skull and – not surprisingly – concussion. It is a dreadful case of elder abuse, nonetheless, especially because it need never have occurred. That it was perpetrated by someone whose inhibitions are impaired does not reduce the severity or the shock of its happening. Ann will never again have the chance but that’s a classic case of ‘stable door.’”

My correspondent included photos which again for privacy reasons, I’m not sharing, but they show a frail, lovely lady with horribly bruised eyes – the eyes hold a sadness that will never go away.

Thank you Katy for allowing us to tell your story and to the author for sharing it with us.


Trust your instinct, the circumstances of this story are unusual, but elderly people being subjected to physical abuse is not. If you, or someone you know, suffers abuse of any kind, physical, psychological, financial, sexual, social or neglect, there is help available.

Queensland – 1300 651 192

New South Wales – 1800 628 881

ACT (Canberra) – (02) 6242 5060

Victoria – 1300 368 821

Tasmania – (03) 6237 0047

South Australia – (08) 8232 5377

Western Australia – 1300 724 679

Northern Territory – 1800 037 072

In New Zealand contact Age Concern which has offices all over NZ – the link is here

Karen OBrien Hall

Karen O'Brien-Hall followed many careers in her life and loved each one! From accountancy to the hospitality industry, from managing an employment agency to Executive Assistant to the Chairman of a multi-national, when she retired Karen was in Public Relations. Whatever her career path at the time, Karen is a lifelong volunteer. Married to "the love of my life", John, her second love is community theatre where she enjoys acting and directing. Karen enjoys time in her garden and can always finds time to read, around 8 – 10 books a month. Her reviews appear on Starts at Sixty, Goodreads,The Reading Room and her own page

  1. This story, although tragic, is not one I would associate with Senior abuse. It is an example of lack of duty of care by the daughter’s supervisor. Senior Abuse, to me, is something that is protracted, systematic and usually well hidden – this was an unfortunate “accident”, the attack carried out by a relative who has no control due to their mental illness. Genuine Senior Abuse is well thought out by the abuser.

    1 REPLY
    • Yes, I agree this is not what I would describe as elder abuse – it was an attack. Elder abuse is often silent, underhand, and unrelenting. It often involves finances and fear and manipulation with no physical injury involved.

  2. Yes and the sad thing is many community based organizations have been defunded by the Abbott government. Things will get worse more and more people are becoming isolated and much if this abusers will be hidden

  3. Its devestating! I was watching a British program,’secrets of nurses,’ the other night. An old lady was admitted with one side of her body one big bruise.She had been in a nursing home, said she fell. Poor old girl. She was close to dying, could barely speak, skin and bones bent and twisted.
    She had no family, nobody to speak up for her.
    The nurses were so kind.It was heartbreaking to watch. Apparently they see this on a regular basis. They made sure her last days were comfortable and she was not alone.

    1 REPLY
    • She might well have fallen…… Nursing homes are run for profit & staffed to minimum. Largely, staff do the best they can with what they have…… 24 hours & one pair of hands each.

  4. Why do they put everything down mental illness i don’t care you should never hit your mother or father

    2 REPLY
    • That’s fine in theory…… but what about the person who has to defend themselves, from being badly beaten by their ‘parent’?

    • I am just saying children who get beating by there parent’s they don’t do it i am taking about children who’s parents are old and frail i am sorry but i belive no matter what you don’t beat them walk away

  5. Mental illness is real and i feel for all families fighting this hidden illness. Unfortunately it is to easy today to blame on mental illness when it is not. My son has suffered mental illness for many years and although we have had many holes in walls etc NEVER have we suffered personal abuse. I know not the same in all cases BUT I also believe many use it as an excuse?

  6. Horrible though it is …….. It is not new. Just more public. And sadly, the poor old darlings who are abused won’t ever prosecute. They are either too loyal or too afraid

  7. That’s very sad, she shouldn’t have been let out on her own. Silly mistake by the carer, could have been much worse.

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