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The Case of the Very Difficult Mother

If a parent refuses help, can her children be guilty of elder abuse?

But we tried!

On March 4, 2002, Stanley and Barbara were charged with one count of cruelty to the infirm. They argued that they did the best they could with their mother, despite her forceful refusals of help and her threatening manner. Barbara's cousin, Jackie Ricks, testified to Johnnie's willful nature. Ricks said that she visited the house on the day Johnnie went to the hospital. When Ricks tried to get Johnnie off the couch, she "pulled a knife" and told Ricks to leave her alone.

Barbara testified, too. She admitted that she had some nurse's aide training, but had not completed the course. She knew that her mother was sick and unable to move around, so she never left her unattended. She wanted her to see a doctor, but her mother refused. Barbara fed her mother soups, soft drinks and nutritional drinks, and tried to move her. She succeeded in getting Johnnie to a sitting position one time, but her mother's "dead weight" made her impossible for Barbara to move.

The iron fist factor

Barbara bought her mother disposable diapers, but Johnnie would "holler" and fight her when she tried to change them. Johnnie also refused to go to the bed where Barbara could clean her easily. Barbara said that she tried to clean Johnnie often by wiping where she could reach. Barbara said that she never smelled the foul odors, and told the court that her bronchitis probably affected her sense of smell.

Barbara said she had been taught to "mind" an old person. She also knew her mother kept a knife.

Stanley also testified that his mother ruled the household. Johnnie told her son that "if you make me go, I'll never forgive you." Stanley noted that after Johnnie moved into the nursing home, she continued to battle her caretakers. Johnnie's children said they did the best they could, and should not be punished for all their efforts to change an impossible situation.

Should Barbara and Stanley be charged with cruelty? How would you decide?

Next: Read the verdict. >>

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