A CORK organisation has warned the housing crisis is contributing to elder abuse after dealing with clients subjected to poor treatment at the hands of their adult children.
Deborah O’Flynn, coordinator of OSS Cork — a domestic violence resource centre in Cork City helping male and female victims — said they are seeing more older service users unable to cut ties with abusive adult sons and daughters.
She explained that intergenerational living comes at a cost for some parents who fear that their child might otherwise become homeless. The increased strain on househunters due to a lack of supply and soaring property costs means that more people are moving in with family members than in previous years.
Deborah revealed that many parents are tolerating disturbing behaviour to avoid seeing their children end up on the streets. She advised anyone suffering in this way to contact the service, which deals with abuse victims from the age of 18 upwards.
Deborah referred to one couple affected by elder abuse in Cork who became prisoners in their own home when their daughter came to live with them. She said it was heartbreaking to listen as the father struggled to admit to fearing his own daughter.
“It was a bit of a haze to him,” she said. “When my colleague asked if he was afraid of his daughter, he replied that he wasn’t. The answer had to be teased out in a different way, so she asked him what his day-to-day life was like in the house. He said that a certain time was allocated to them for breakfast each morning and they had to go back to their room after that. When asked what would happen if they left the room, he said that she would become very cross and ‘it probably would be better if we didn’t’.
“That man was afraid of his own daughter, but he didn’t want to admit as a means of being protective. You don’t want to think that your own flesh and blood is hurting you. Whether the person is 16 or 60, they are still somebody’s child.
"This means there is mixed emotion when it comes to taking action because one has a natural instinct to protect their child. That emotional tie can be difficult to break.”
She said that often such warped behaviour can become normalised over time.
“This isn’t something that emerged overnight. It is a drip-fed mechanism.”
Deborah said people will often make excuses for their adult children.
“The son or daughter may have been given a mild diagnosis many years earlier that led to family members acquiescing to demands,” she said.
“That behaviour can spill out over time into abuse. It causes the victim’s world to become significantly reduced.”
Financial abuse is also a serious cause for concern among elderly abuse victims.
“There have been scenarios involving people having the codes for their parents’ online banking, and money mysteriously disappearing from accounts,” she said.
“There is a huge sense of entitlement from the abuser’s perspective, coupled with an outright refusal to take responsibility.”