My child, my abuser

My child, my abuser

An elderly widow entrusted the sale of her Housing Board flat to her only child, only to have her daughter pocket the proceeds, dump her mother in hospital and disappear.

Three years on, the daughter is still missing. The mother is still alive, with dementia and in a nursing home.

Around a third of close to 100 victims of elder abuse were cheated of their savings or property or harassed for money by family members, according to a new study by Trans Safe Centre, a voluntary welfare agency which specialises in the issue.

More than half of the victims were physically abused - beaten up, punched, pushed or scratched - and seven in 10 reported being psychologically abused, facing threats, taunts and insults.

Eight in 10 victims were women, usually mothers, while half of the abusers were sons, and a fifth of them, daughters.

The study by social workers Odelia Chan, Ho Gang Hiang and Tan Ching Yee looked only at "substantiated" cases of abuse, where there was physical evidence of wrongdoing or where the abuse had been witnessed by a third party. The victims were aged 60 and above.

While there were fewer cases of financial exploitation than verbal or physical abuse, the numbers may well rise with the increase in the number of better-off older people, said Ms Chan, the main author of the Trans Safe report.

"It's happened in countries like the United States. More cases may well happen here," she said.

Those who face physical or verbal violence can take out court-sanctioned personal protection orders (PPOs) against their abusers, but these orders cannot prevent financial abuse, noted Ms Chan.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing announced during a visit to Trans Safe last Thursday that Singapore would have a new law next year to better protect vulnerable adults, including the elderly.

Social workers like Ms Chan hope the new law will strengthen protection against financial abuse.

She spent two years trying to find the woman who disappeared after selling her mother's flat. "We lodged a missing persons report and spent months trying to track her down, but with no luck," she said.

The centre has seen cases of adult children fleeing overseas after pocketing the proceeds from the sale of their parents' flats.

The study found that older people are abused not only by caregivers stressed by the burden of providing constant care and financial support.

In fact, 30 per cent of the abusers were financially dependent on their elderly victims. Less than a quarter of the victims were financially dependent on the abuser.

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