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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Exclamation False accusations of elder abuse

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Texas

    My mother-in-law is highly abusive toward my husband and his siblings. When she does not immediately get her way she calls all of her friends and tells them that we are horrible people and are abusing her. She also tries to turn the siblings against each other however they are all on good terms and do not believe anything she says (they exchange emails and phone calls on a semi-regular basis and all have been the recipients of this abuse).

    The things that she gets upset about include; calling my husband at work and telling him that her porch light went out and she needs him to come home RIGHT NOW to change it. When he doesn't drop everything and come running she calls a handyman to change it who charges her $50 and then she complains to us that she had to call him. This is just one of MANY things she blames us for.

    Anytime she gets overly upset with us (for whatever reason) she calls her home-healthcare worker sobbing and telling her that we are upsetting her. Then she and the home-healthcare worker threaten to call adult protective services on us because her level of distress is such that it affects her mental health (she has a prescription for Xanax but does not take it and has been on anti-depressants before but refuses to take them because she doesn't like the way they make her feel).

    My husband is an authorized signer on her checking account (due to a period of time she spent in the hospital several years ago but he has not signed ANY of her checks or spent ANY of her money in the past 4 years), he does not give her advice on how to spend her money and we do not take responsibility for her health care (she is 72 and in poor physical condition due to weight issues but is able to get around on her own though she does not like to). We have kept up her yard and occasionally taken her meals but due to the current situation we are not on speaking terms with her. Today she told one of her grandchildren that she when (my mother-in-law) dies she is going to have money set aside for security at her funeral to make sure that my husband, myself, and her oldest daughter cannot attend her funeral.

    Unfortunately we live about 50 yards from her and do not want to sell our home to get away from her. If she actually does file a complaint of elder abuse how is the best way to prove our innocence (there are many people (not just the siblings) who would testify that she is vindictive, manipulative and spiteful towards anyone who does not give her what she wants) and what can we do to have her evaluated for mental illness (because things have reached a point where we are questioning her mental stability)? What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    New York. Long Island.
    If everyone already knows shes a crazy old lady, what are you worried about?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Worried because I am a teacher and I am afraid of what just the accusation could do to my career. I know of a case where the accusation of elderly abuse (here in the state of Texas anyway) led to the loss of a job (not a someone I know personally but one I heard about through a friend, have not verified but am looking into it).

    Also, if you look at the definition for psychological abuse of the elderly (at least according to the Texas definition) it includes wording implying that the infliction of mental duress that leads to a decline in the elderly person's well-being (either physical or mental) is enough to charge a person with elderly abuse. If this is in fact the case I am trying to determine if they differentiate between self-inflicted mental duress or if it has to come from the alleged abuser (i.e. we are not doing anything to egg on the situation, she is keeping it alive by rehashing it with her friends etc thereby keeping herself upset).

    As I stated originally we have had no contact with her since the Saturday after Mother's Day and have tried to keep our conversations regarding her behavior limited to family only. We have tried to ignore the situation but to a degree I feel as though my family is being attacked (at least verbally anyway) and I want to defend them the best I can.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Mean people get old too. It is good that your husband and his siblings have agreed to keep communication lines open so that this gorgon cannot do what she seems to be best at doing, which is divide and cause conflict.

    I think written documentation of her behavior by each of you who has contact with her is not a bad idea. In other words, keep a log of the incidents when she has called your husband, what she has demanded, what she has threatened on which date. This log will be very valuable if she does actually follow through with her threats to call protective services.

    Extremely well documented financial records of any contact you have had with her bank account are also important in cases where financial abuse is accused. She certainly can't claim it and demonstrate it if it isn't there.

    It would be my suggestion that you and your husband (and his siblings) set up a schedule of when you will have contact with her, check on her, in other words, do not talk to her or contact her unless she is scheduled for your attention, but do check on her to make sure she is okay since she is so close. When she begins screaming and yelling and saying ugly things, tell her firmly that this is not acceptable and that you are going now. This will demonstrate that you are making an effort to assist her, are not creating the stress and anxiety she so happily partakes of.

    The situation of having her evaluated and committed is so subject to change. Your MIL is fragile from a health care standpoint. She's not an otherwise healthy young person with mental issues. It happened that in my case, when she had genuine health issues, needed someone to assist her and support her, my mother suddenly became a lot more cooperative. She really needed us, in spite of what she said, and it became clear that we weren't doing all the terrible things she claimed, to the point she was looking ridiculous to her friends and supporters, and it was surprising how her "mental issues" suddenly cleared up. She was more like a spoiled and manipulative child than truly mentally ill, and it really sounds like this is the case with your mother in law.

    Throwing someone in the back room and threatening them, calling them names, threatening to hurt them, refusing to feed them, hurting their pets, these are actual infliction of mental duress. Not coming to change her light bulb promptly and not speaking to her on the phone when she wants to curse and threaten you and call you names is not infliction of mental duress by any reasonable evaluation.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Thank you for your reply. This latest round of vitriol from her (so much has happened over the past month it's almost ridiculous) stems directly from a family meeting we had with her regarding her behavior and setting up a schedule. All of the sibilings were present (two live in the Dallas area (about three hours away from us) and two live in the same town as MnL). We tried to set a standard of behavior for her and hold her to it. Within two weeks she was back to her old behavior and while the siblings did exactly what we had all agreed on ("I'm hanging up now as I do not want to hear you say ugly things about xyz") she simply turned to her friends (whom she treats much differently).

    The current situation started when my husband had told her he would pick up a prescription for her the morning following a doctor's appt. (the script was not for a life threatening illness and she still had several doses of the same medication left over from her previous prescription). It led to her calling our home a week later and screaming at my husband until I thought her vocal chords would rupture. Since then we have had no contact with her other than when I mowed her yard two weeks ago (I did it while she was at another doctor's appt).

    Since then anyone who attempts to tell her that she is in the wrong she accuses of being brainwashed by us (my husband and myself) and that we are lying about everything. She has taken to calling my husbands ex-wife (a woman she HATES) sobbing and asking her to force my step-son to call her (he is 16 and lives with us) because we are brainwashing him as well. She has called my step-son's cell phone and left messages to the effect that when we are on her property we are trespassing.

    Spoiled and manipulative child is about right her but I still have to protect my family and myself because even a spoiled child can cause problems with DFPS.

    I will begin to document everything and regarding the bank records the only time he ever signed one of her checks was to pay her bills while she was in the hospital for a year so we could pull bank records to prove that particular issue. Do you have any other suggestions that might be helpful?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Yes, I do. I suggest that you seek some counseling (pastoral or professional) for yourself so you don't lose your sanity and serenity over this, and that your family members like your husband and his siblings may want to have a legal consultation with someone who can assist them with determining the best ways to legally deal with eldercare for your MIL.

    But part of the turmoil and anxiety this is causing YOU personally, where you say you feel your family is "under attack" is in the way you are looking at this. You feel like you've been attacked, verbally abused, and you should respond, fix this, make it stop. Remember, the only behavior you can control here is yours.

    Do not expect this to get better. Do not expect her to change at this age and stage in life, suddenly realize and admit she may be wrong, admit she has overdone this, apologise, ask for forgiveness. At best, if she needs you, she'll accept you back in the fold as if nothing has happened, ignoring everything she's said and done and expecting you do to the same.

    I do not think there is the slightest danger in the world of her being able to "call and report elder abuse on you" and get you in trouble. Of course her home health worker has to sympathize with her, soothe her. But if you call her bluff, and I really doubt she will ever actually follow through with this, I think she has just hit on something that has got you scared to death, but if she does,from past experience working with these situations, I doubt there will be any potential for her to get you in real trouble, especially if you have good documentation. Nowhere is not complying with her rude and unreasonable demands and making her angry defined as elder abuse.

    Screaming at someone over the phone until she ruptures her vocal cords involves him willingly holding the phone and listening to her tirades. That shouldn't have happened. Hanging up on a telephone rant, refusing to take someone's ugly calls or letters is not elder abuse, even if it "gets her all emotionally upset."

    Okay, so she's calling the ex wife. So what? She's doing it to make you feel bad. Your son is a free agent in this affair. He doesn't have to do what she demands any more than your husband and you do. He's not compelled to call his grandma, this is just her attempt at control. She'll probably offer him money, too, try to buy him out. You cannot, and others cannot convince her what she says is wrong. You'll just have to find constructive ways to deal with her. There are many excellent books out there about dealing with difficult older people, many including legal aspects of these situations and good references.

    If she is claiming that she doesn't want you on her property, stop doing her yardwork. She can hire it done. As for her turning to her friends, how nice! Let them do for her. Never mind what she may be saying to them. If they come and say it back to you, try to rebuke you for treating her badly, smile and say "We're so glad you're helping Mother. We really appreciates you helping us take care of her!"

    You are not under obligation to wait on her, take her calls, bring her prescriptions. In some states, you are obligated to see that she is not abandoned destitute and helpless, that she does have a way to obtain care, get her yard work done, that she has a way to get her prescriptions, that she is safe and fed and cared for, but it doesn't anywhere insist that you have to do it while she screams and shreiks at you. She has the means, as you say, to hire help. If you were no longer around, if your family were suddenly taken out of this picture, I'm sure she'd manage somehow. Get counseling for yourselves to make sure you don't continue to be her victims.

    Last edited by commentator; 06-20-2010 at 02:04 PM.
  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    You/your husband, has the right to sign a Revocation of the Financial Power of Attorney. If she stated an alternate in the POA, then that person should pick up the duty.

    As y'all are local to MIL, it makes more sense for you to retain the ability to access her bill-paying, but that is the one area in which you are vulnerable to her untruthful statemenets.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Commentator and Garrula Lingua,

    I cannot tell you both how much better I feel having joined and posted this problem. Your comments are dead on regarding the counseling etc. You are completely right about only being able to control our own actions in this. I agree that counseling would be good course of action. I had never really considered it before but this is truly emotional abuse and I need someone to vent to that isn't my husband (it is his mother after all and he's already going through enough without having to hear it from me as well). It would also give me a chance to get some perspective I think.

    As far as charges are concerned I am relieved to hear your perspective on this as it sounds as though you have dealt with this sort of thing before and I never have. As I am sure you know when you are in the middle of a situation it can sometimes be very difficult to separate out the emotions and the true facts.

    The sisters in Dallas have exchanged emails today and we are all definately on the same page regarding the MnL so that helps quite a bit as well.

    Once again thank you for the guidance and kindness...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2010

    I am so sorry but......

    My heart goes out to you. I meet with DSS on Tuesday for allegations of Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of my MIL. I know and my family knows these are no true, but the neighbors and her friends believe they are. She has told everyone in her Senior group and everyone she talks to on the phone that she is being so abused. I am at my end of the rope with her. It has got to the point that I have called a divorce lawyer. I have so many family members who are supporting me and they keep telling me that if I divorce my husband she will get what she wants. They just do not understand, I risk losing my 12 yr old son, and my 2 grand daughters 2 and 5. DSS has told me they can remove the children from my home until this either is founded or unfounded. I have a daycare business and yes the reputation one has when closely involved in children everyday life is important to uphold. So yes, my heart really goes out to you and your family right now. I would try to get your MIL mentally evaluated. That is what people have suggested I do also.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    The post you're responding to is from June 19th. It's unlikely that the person who posted it will come back and read your response.

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