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Domestic Violence Issues and Your Aging Parents

August 20, 2012

Today I’m going to address a topic that doesn’t get much exposure in discussions about aging parents or elderly clients. It should! Domestic violence involving senior citizens goes unnoticed, avoided, and hidden. Domestic violence is an equal opportunity offender–it knows no age barriers, no sexual bias, no color prejudice, and is prevalent in all economic strata.

The aging population is vulnerable enough to financial scams, insurance fraud, and greedy financially strapped young family members trying to empty their coffers. Domestic violence adds another threatening layer that should have caregivers and communities on alert.

In the event you grew up in a household  with domestic violence you may have developed the attitude that such actions are ordinary. They are not!

As a child in such a situation you may have tried to stop the violence and been so soundly beaten you never got involved again. Maybe you realized you were not able to stop the actions so you withdrew. It’s also possible you never saw, heard, or felt the violence.

Adult children of aging parents carry multiple burdens, but allowing domestic violence to continue will weigh you down in the long run. You now have better observation skills and critical thinking skills to assist you. In addition, you probably have financial resources as well as community connections which can be accessed to break the abusive patterns.

Another concern is divorced or widowed aging parents who are seeking companionship or another life partner. Many seniors actively seek romance and companionship via the internet dating sites or forums. Online “Matchmaking” is big business. Since there is usually a fee involved to access these sites there may be the assumption that the participants are screened in some way to weed out dangerous or predatory individuals. Not so!

If your aging parent meets someone online then decides to pick up and move 400 miles away for a relationship this should raise some red flags for you and your siblings.

Yes, this does happen. Yes, some of these relationships work out and have good results in caring partnerships. Not all singles on internet dating sites are predators, scam artists, or potential spouse/partner beaters. Be aware however, that there are plenty of individuals who are all of those things and worse.

Now that I’ve got your attention let’s explore some ways you can help prevent your parent from becoming a victim of domestic violence.


If you grew up in an abusive home:

Stay close to your parents.

Let them know you care.

Be in their home often.

If a situation develops involving abuse or violence remove one or the other of your parents and  get some help professionally or involve law enforcement.


In the event the violence is stemming from a new partner of your aging parent do all of the above.


If you suspect domestic violence of any kind:

Document your concerns

Take pictures of unexplained bruises, broken furniture, holes in the wall

Listen carefully to what is being said when you are in your parent’s home or on the phone

Remain in close contact by phone

Visit often and at different times of the day

Drop in unexpectedly

Be alert for changes in behavior, eating patterns, emotions, interactions with friends, or sleep disruptions


Probably the most important thing you can do is to assure your aging parent that you are  there for t hem. If you haven’t had a close relationship then work on establishing one. If your relationship has always been tight then you’re ahead of the game–just keep it up.

Talking about domestic violence, or even the possibility of it, is hard no matter what kind of relationship you have with your parents. “Starting the Dialogue” and showing you care is just the first step in stemming the tide of domestic violence or abuse aimed at your aging parents.

This topic requires much more discussion. Please share your thoughts, questions, and insights in the comment section so we may continue this dialogue together.

Thanks for sharing with me!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2012 2:09 pm

    Thans for bringing this topic up. I think a lot of people assume DV stops when people get older due to failing health but they would be wrong.


    • August 20, 2012 9:28 pm

      Exactly! Thanks for commenting. I’d really like to get people talking about this issue and paying attention to the issues surrounding elder abuse of all types.

  2. September 8, 2012 6:52 pm

    This is really helpful and important information to share- it’s difficult to see the parents you felt were strong and infallible become weak and frail, and potential targets for all kinds of abuse. Thanks for bringing this to light!

    • September 9, 2012 5:26 pm

      Thanks Patty. I see too much of this in my work in health care. It’s a topic that needs lots of recognition and exposure.

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