Having practised in elder law for many years, I have to say that women are particularly vulnerable to elder abuse.
Women are, according to many psychologists, raised to be compassionate, understanding and forgiving. Women will give a great deal to loved ones either out of a desire to help them or because they value the relationship so highly and don’t wish to damage it.
From a professional perspective, I have seen the trusting nature of women taken for granted and abused. And this is not just in the elder law sphere but in the family law area where I practised for many years. Many wives trust their husbands implicitly. In many situations they have no real alternative. Working or raising children or a combination of both can take a heavy toll on a woman’s time and this often leads to a division of labour within the household. Naturally enough, one of the parties might assume responsibility for managing the household budget and will rely upon the other party to do so in the interest of them both.
But that isn’t always what happens. In family law, wives would often find out after the fact that their husband has been misleading them in relation to the state of his business, or concealing personal expenditure that he knew the wife wouldn’t approve of. Some women simply don’t have the time to be constantly monitoring the husband’s business accounts and the family bank accounts to keep tabs on what is happening. Besides which, they trust the husband and wouldn’t expect him to be doing anything underhand.
In the elder law area, trust plays a huge part in the financial binds that elderly mothers often land in. They trust their son, they trust their daughter. These are people they would do anything to help and, in return, they have a faith that the love and care will be reciprocated.
For some women, the hardest edge of financial exploitation is the realisation that the trust and confidence they placed in their closest relationships has let them down.
Personally, I think parents will do their daughters a favour if they encourage, not only compassion and understanding but awareness that they shouldn’t trust people to the point where they put themselves at risk. It is difficult to draw the line between self-protection and suspicion. But reaching that balance is a skill that should be taught at an early age because it will stand girls and women in good stead for the entirety of their lives.