Husband of 40 years abused by wife ‘daily’

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An elderly Nelson man has had to leave his wife of 40 years after daily “emotional, verbal and physical abuse”, Nelson Weekly has learned.

It is the latest elder abuse incident involving a family member, which Age Concern Nelson Tasman says make up more than three-quarters of elder abuse cases. About half of abusers are adult children.

The man, who we will call “Mr Smith” to protect his identity, told Nelson Weekly via Age Concern that he was his wife’s full-time carer and had felt responsible for continuing to look after her. But he had to start barricading himself into his bedroom at nights to avoid the abuse.

He says the ongoing abuse was having an increasingly poor effect on his own mental and physical health.

“I was highly anxious, nervous, lost a lot of confidence and was depressed. I had high blood pressure and had even taken up smoking again because of the stress. I felt like a prisoner in my own home,” he says.

Mr Smith says his wife’s actions also spread to their friends who she would verbally abuse and make unfounded accusations against.

One friend even went so far as to put out a restraining order against her.

That was when Mr Smith sought help from Age Concern, which was able to help him move into a new house.

This week is Elder Abuse Awareness Week and Age Concern Nelson Tasman’s Mal Drummond says he receives approximately 100 referrals of elder abuse and self-neglect every year, including financial, psychological and physical abuse.

But he is hopeful for a change in “disrespectful” attitudes towards older people, by educating people about the signs and effects of abuse to help prevent it from happening and how to challenge disrespectful attitudes towards older people.

“Love and cherish your older relatives, respect and honour their wisdom, include them in your plans and social activities, encourage them to make their own decisions and let them set their own pace.”

Mal says the adult children of victims make decisions for the older person without even asking them what it is they want.

“Or, they ridicule them about the decisions they do make. Sometimes, they pressure older people into doing things they don’t really want to do – like giving a loan, selling their house or letting a family member move in with them for free. Attitudes like these show a lack of respect for the older person, for their quality of life and for their needs.”

Age Concern Nelson Tasman is putting on several activities to mark Elder Abuse Awareness Week.
•    Purple-themed morning tea at Age Concern/Richmond Seniors, 62 Oxford Street, Wednesday 15th, 10am to midday.
•    Workshop on internet safety with cyber expert John Parsons. Friday 17 June at Stoke Baptist Church, Main Road, Stoke at 10am.
•    Memory Loss – Who’s Here to Help? This is a joint presentation between Age Concern and Alzheimers Nelson on memory loss, what it is, who gets it and how to improve memory. Tuesday 21 June, Ernest Rutherford Retirement Village, 49 Covent Drive, Stoke, at 10.30am.

All are welcome to these free events, and people are asked to register with Age Concern on 03 544 7624 or emailing [email protected].