Case in Point
Chelsea is 33 years old and living with her widowed grandma. Viola’s husband past away several years ago, as well as two of her daughter’s. Her only family is one 50 year old daughter and a “woman child” granddaughter whom she adores. Like many grandparents, she is blind to her granddaughter’s behavior. There is a special, but irrational bond that often develops between these generations. The flaws or mistakes of the grand kids is glossed over, and they are rescued from situations the rest of us would suffer painful consequences for.
Enabling leads to dependence and abuse
Before her husband died, he had paid for Chelsea to attend a costly, out of state college with all expenses paid. After Chelsea flunked out because of an obvious lack of effort and interest, the grandparents rescued her, putting her in charge of a large apartment building they owned. She had a small salary, and free rent. In exchange she was expected to collect rents and show vacancies to prospective renters.
After a year Chelsea was quickly running the property into the ground. It was discovered she was pocketing rents, even stealing money from the washing machines. When the rest of the family insisted she be fired and evicted, she locked herself in and contacted a local legal aid service to represent her. It took nearly a year to evict her and the financial loss to the family was huge. It was about that time that Viola’s husband died, while at the same time it was discovered that Chelsea, now homeless, was a heroin addict. So what did Viola do?…She invited Chelsea to move in with her! It didn’t surprise Viola’s only remaining daughter that expensive items started disappearing around the house: Rolex watches, mink coats, computers… When her daughter or friends would confront her about what was obvious to everyone else, Viola would fly into a rage and accuse others of having “no compassion.” In her mind, Chelsea just needs a little support and she’ll soon be strong enough to be up and out on her own. That was five years ago and nothing has changed.
Not an Isolated Problem
Financial Abuse prevalent among adult children living at home
According to AARP older Americans lose about $2.6 billion dollars a year to elder abuse. One of the most common, and least reported, is the financial drain of close family members that have no right to the senior’s money, but cannot resist the easy temptation of a demented, or overly enabling senior family member they have easy access to.
Strategies to Minimize the Chances for Abuse
In our Senior Home Care agency we see far too many examples of children and grandchildren who are clearly manipulating and financially abusing their elders. For years these parents and grandparents have been enabling their offspring. In thinking they are helping or rescuing them, they have actually made them dependent, helpless adults. Incapable now of supporting themselves, and psychologically wounded to the point that they have not the self-confidence to go out into the world and learn the skills they need to survive, these dependent offspring have learned to survive on deceit and manipulation to get by. And their favorite and always quite willing target is the grandma who is convinced she is just helping these sweet and innocent children get by until they can stand on their own. Well in these scenarios that day never comes because these people have not developed the skills necessary to sell themselves in today’s job market.
The way we learn best is through encountering natural consequences from our mistakes. For most people, if the screw up, they have to pay a price, and that price has a psychological sting to it we never forget. Therefore we are inclined to never make that mistake again and we develop new skills for similar situations in the future. Grand kids who are rescued never suffer natural consequences, and never develop the skills needed to navigate the outside world. Their skill set remains steadfastly focused on the parents or grandparents that they know they can manipulate. And so remain stuck to grandma like a Remora fish to a shark, draining her of every dime they can connive out of her.