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How Dawn dealt with her intimidating adult son

Dawn was living happily and independently in residential aged care facilities (RACF) despite chronic health issues. Six months ago, her son persuaded her to lend him $90,000 for his divorce settlement and mortgage payment. He then talked her into moving in with him and his new partner. Dawn was reluctant but agreed to avoid conflict. She was afraid of her intimidating son. 

When COVID-19 restrictions tightened, Dawn lost access to her daily social activities and other support, which were vital to her mental wellbeing. She felt invisible in her son’s home and her attempts to engage with the family put a strain on the relationships. Tempers flared to the point that her son’s partner pushed Dawn in anger. The police issued an IVO but the living arrangements didn’t change. 

From then on, Dawn lived in fear of her son, his partner and her grandchildren who were drug users. Knowing she was fully reliant on them and was hidden from the outside world emboldened them to neglect her physical, mental and psychological needs. 

Dawn desperately wanted to return to RACF but wasn’t in a financial position to do so. Each time she timidly mentioned the loan repayment, her son would raise his voice which made her feel afraid and trapped. 

Dawn eventually gave her son full control over her daily decision-making and routines. As her anxiety levels rose, her emotional and physical health declined. Eventually, she contacted Better Place Australia for help. 

Taking small steps towards a big change

The first thing a Better Place Australia Family Consultant did was help Dawn move into respite at RACF. Dawn remembers being flooded by relief over the move and soon after, her physical and emotional health improved. Summoning up her courage, Dawn told her son that she wished to live permanently at the facility. This triggered another angry tirade. 

Dawn’s anxiety levels rose again when she realised her meagre savings and inability to access the Aged Pension meant she was still reliant on her son who was also her POA. As her frustration and despair grew, she became morose and withdrawn. When the Family Consultant saw her next, Dawn’s cognitive capacity was rapidly diminishing. 

In continued discussions with the Family Consultant, Dawn repeatedly stated that she wanted to live permanently in RACF but had no idea how to resolve the financial issue. The Family Consultant referred her to a Financial Counsellor who concluded that Dawn needed legal and advocacy support, assistance in negotiating with her son and access to money to pay the facility.  

Dawn’s son, who was initially paying for her short-term care, refused to participate in these discussions. He also threatened to cut Dawn off from the family if she didn’t return home. Dawn felt backed into a corner and torn between wanting to maintain the family relationship and regain her autonomy. However, this time she knew where to get decision-making support. 

Being supported to prioritise her needs

The Family Consultant helped Dawn deal with her son’s intimidation and advocated on her behalf to the RACF. As Dawn’s confidence grew, she began putting her needs above the financial implications for her son. She also felt empowered enough to change her POA and now receives pro bono legal assistance to recoup the loan. 

Dawn continues to live at the facility where she receives regular psychological support for the neglect and physical and financial abuse that she experienced while living with her son.

Find out about Better Place Australia Elder Abuse Prevention services.

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