As I have posted earlier, I have unexpectedly become my Aunts caregiver. To try and make a long story short, my cousin who is diabetic, alcoholic and by all accounts mentally ill has been living in their garage for over ten years. It appears that he has been basically holding them hostage. They couldn't leave him, because nobody was willing to come stay with him. When my Uncle passed away, fortunately my cousin was in the hospital at the same time. I was able to get a restraining order against my cousin after my brother witnessed him trying to swing at my Aunt and the verbal abuse he doled out. Her friends had told us they were afraid for her. Even with all that I have been told about my cousins abuse, my Aunt of course doesn't remember. She misses him terribly. I have tried to talk to her about moving from California to Montana to be close to me, but she refuses. She doesn't want to leave him. She has no idea where he is. Of course she doesn't remember that he is in a homeless shelter. She wants so desperately to talk to him.

So do I get her new phone number to him (she's been placed in assisted living), or do I continue to play dumb? Deep down I know that no good will truly come from it, but it is causing me heartache and stress.

Any advice would be most appreciated!

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I disagree with the people who are telling OP to allow contact. The risk to her Aunt is far too great. It is not about her having a right to a relationship with her son, that ship sailed when the abuse started.

We talk so much about boundaries here, this is a prime example of a boundary that must not be breached.

If it were the reverse, and we have seen it here may times, an abusive parent, we tell the poster to put boundaries in place. To protect themselves from the abuser. Even if it is their parent, there is a time when the victim has to cut off all contact to protect themself.

There is a very good reason for the restraining order and none of us here are privy to the details.

Would you be saying the same thing to a woman who was escaping from an abusive marriage? Would you be telling her, of course you can talk to your ex, even though there is a restraining order against him?

This situation is no different, the abuse has gone on for years. Just because Mum does not recognize or remember it, does not mean it is ok to put them in touch with each other.

I am speaking from a place of first hand experience here.
Helpful Answer (6)
cherokeegrrl54 Jan 2020
Thank you!
Your profile states your aunt has dementia and you state she doesn't remember her son is in a homeless shelter. Her son was abusive enough your have been able to get a PPO which normally has no contact requirements. No contact means just that NO contact so you should not violate the PPO and provide your cousin with your aunt's new contact information or her location.

Are you an emergency guardian? Will you be pursuing formal guardianship?

My recommendation is to get a good photograph of your cousin to show your aunt and tell her he has gone to a wilderness camp for managing his diabetes where he's eating right and getting more exercise. There's no easy phone access there but he's doing fine.

Your aunt cannot understand the problems her son is having and cannot take any action to improve his situation. Her son is a threat to her. So your job is to protect your aunt, physically and mentally from her abusive son. Your aunt lives in a place where her son was well (or at least better) so you say her son is doing fine and come up with a reason she can understand for the limited contact. If you can do it safely, I might offer her son the opportunity to record a message for his mother.

I suggest you petition for permanent guardianship and move your aunt near your home. She probably will not realize she has moved from CA but the extra distance will help protect her from the abusive son.

It's very emotionally difficult to care for a venerable senior who is no longer able to act in their own best interests. Things like wanting to contact a son that would be the senior's undisputed choice when they were competent are now problematical. Please remember your first duty is to protect the senior. Anyone with any history of abuse should only have very limited and closely controlled access/contact. Are you prepared to step forward and prevent your cousin from striking his mother? Or are you sure you have a meeting environment where your cousin cannot strike his mother? Or the meeting can be aborted if he begins a verbal rant? If you do not have adequate control to protect your aunt, then there should not be a meeting.
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She doesn't remember so it is okay to lie your pants off to protect her.

Tell her he got a job as a merchant marine and is traveling the world. That he has been shipped to Mars, anything that explains his no contact.

Dealing with a chemical personality is obviously a danger to her. The courts do not lightly grant restraining orders and that they did, tells me that they believed that he was a real danger to her.

Please redirect, lie and anything else you have to do to ensure her safety from her son. He lost the right to have any contact and she unfortunately has to pay the consequences of his choices. Far better that she sheds a few tears then has a brutal beating from him.

God bless you and your brother for stepping in and protecting her. I would move her as far away from him as possible and to make it easier on you.
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For me some of it depends on how your cousin behaves and contributes when he isn't drinking, that is if there are ever times throughout a day when he isn't drinking. Does he love and care about his mother or is he only about what he can get from her and himself? I had an uncle (since passed) who was an alcoholic and could be very violent when he drank but when he wasn't drinking he would give you the shirt off his back, loved, cared for and helped take care of my grandmother. He was violent with my grandmother at one point after drinking one night and the family stepped in, I don't remember if there was an actual order of protection, this was years ago but he wasn't allowed back in the house for a while. My uncle however was horrified by his behavior and recognized that he had a problem when drinking so while he wasn't willing to give up drinking he did make every effort to protect the people around him from it by asking me to take his teenage daughter in when she needed a place to live rather than taking her in himself and making himself unavailable to GM after 4pm. He was what I think they refer to as a functioning alcoholic meaning he worked and was active through the day and then started drinking late afternoon, early evening. My mom who then became GM live in caregiver, uncle moved into the house she had been in not too far away, had a rule she would not have any contact with him after 3pm I think it was. Other than that they had regular contact and while he never lived in GM house he dropped by, took care of the property and called whenever he wanted. But again, he recognized that he needed to protect his loved ones from himself when he drank so this may not apply to your cousin.

My GM always protected uncle and even after he was violent with her never would have thrown him out, continued to support him make excuses for him which is why the family (his brother) stepped in and would have been miserable not having him in her life. I don't remember exactly, I was trying to stay out of it as much as possible but I'm sure he was allowed to talk to her on the phone for a while and then later visit with someone else there and they eased back into contact and while she knew she was being protected she wasn't being blocked from her son because that would not be what she wanted.

This is not to say you should or shouldn't allow contact, you know your family situation best and they are all different, I just thought another example and knowing you aren't alone might help. You are her caregiver for a reason, I'm assuming you have POA/DPOA or something equivalent and he is out now. It's a bit more complicated probably if she is still living alone in the house but if he's abiding by the restraining order at least you know he's paying attention and on notice. Guess that brings me back to, does he care about his mother and want whats best for her, dos he want contact or is he looking for his free ride and a punching bag? Does he have any desire to find a way to have contact under your rules? If not it might be time to tell aunt he is in "treatment" and it's best for him right now not to have contact so he can concentrate on helping himself. You might even say you hope he can do that this time or now...she knows about his issues even if she doesn't openly acknowledge them or feels responsible for him.

She and your cousin are very lucky to have you watching out for them, this is not an easy situation or for the week at heart. Good luck.
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Thanks to Lymie for an interesting case study, with a balanced assessment of options. OP says that the Order allows supervised visits. Aunt has ‘lost her rights’ to see him because he hit her? - if so many mothers would not be able to see sons who have gone off the rails. Women with an Order in a domestic violence situation certainly have the right to contact their spouses if they need and want to, and if they have already left would probably do so from somewhere like the Police Station – it’s a one-way Order. CM suggests a phone call, on a non-identifiable phone, on speaker with a minder listening perhaps. Perhaps the best option for OP is to think about the ‘conditions’ which made things work with Lymie, and see if there is anyone who can check out the situation with the son. Privacy makes things difficult, but the Homeless Shelter may be able to respond to questions like ‘would it work OK for him’ to find out if it is likely to result in a meltdown (which would be bad for him too). We do suggest that the victim considers cutting off contact, but this victim doesn’t want to do that.
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Tothill Jan 2020
Margaret the victim in question has dementia, she is not capable of reasoning if it is safe for her to see her son or not.

If it were a child asking to see an abusive parent there would have to be support in place for the child and fully supervised visits. This is not possible in this situation. It could be a disaster if the son found out where his mother is living.
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Is your brother more "on the spot"? Is he involved in your aunt's care?

You say your aunt doesn't remember that her son is in a homeless shelter. What exactly has she been told about what has happened?

Removing your aunt from the risk that her son posed to her was correct. Nobody is going to argue with that.

Separating them permanently and denying her information about him or communication with him is much more problematic. She has a right to contact with her child and to information about him.

You don't give her number to her son. You give her trusted representative (guardian, DPOA, your brother, her social worker, e.g.) information about him, and the trusted representative goes cautiously about assessing how she can be supported to have a safe relationship with him. The fact that this will be delicate work and will take time is not an excuse for not doing it.

It isn't obvious why she can't have a telephone call with him. Shouldn't be too difficult to arrange, and to monitor closely so that it can be ended if pre-agreed ground rules are breached. Why is this being prevented? What did the restraining order say, and what is its duration?

Have you or has your brother spoken to your cousin?

Here's the thing. You are entitled to your own opinion of your very unattractive-sounding cousin but to your aunt, he is her son. She loves him. She refused to abandon him even when he became dangerous to her. She desperately wants to know how he is, where he is, and what is happening to him. You don't have to do it and neither does your brother, but somebody must take responsibility for protecting her rights on this issue.
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Isthisrealyreal Jan 2020
She doesn't remember that he is physically abusive to her, seriously you think that her rights to see this bum should be honored. No way, she is in danger from him, isn't that what we are always telling people, it becomes more important to keep them safe than to worry about their wants.

Any creep that would raise his hand in anger to his demented mother deserves to be eternally separated from her, even if it hurts her heart.
Your intuition is already giving you the answer - 'Deep down I know that no good will truly come from it'. Given that your aunt has a failing memory, even if she did manage to speak to your cousin she would forget, so the situation would be no further advanced. I would be more concerned for her physical safety if she did tell your cousin where she is now living. On this occasion I am advising you to go with your gut feeling - play dumb.
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No, don't give her info on him or info to him on her. Especially if there is a PPO in place. Of course she wants to see her son, she doesn't remember the abuse. Your job is to protect her. Just keep telling her little white lies.
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What substitute relationship will lessen the anxiety she feels over a child she has protected at such sacrifice to herself over so many years?

Even when mother was perfectly aware of her son's difficulties - his diabetes, his alcohol abuse, the mental illness that she probably knew much more about than the OP could have done seeing as we're going back ten years at least - she did not reject him.

Now, she is in distress because she does not know where he is or what has become of him, and saying that this is for her protection does not justify the complete severing of communication. She has a right to a relationship with her child. It must be facilitated, with as much caution as needed.
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TNtechie Jan 2020
Countrymouse, I'm sorry but I just do not understand your comments here, particularly this last one. A judge with much better access to all the facts of the matter has _already_ decided the relationship must NOT be facilitated and issued a PPO. Why do you believe your judgement or principle in this matter is better than the OP who requested the protection or the judge who granted it? On what basis do you ask others (from family to AL staff) to risk both legal consequences and serious injury so a woman with dementia can have a visit with her abuser which she may or may not even remember?

My personal experience with dementia patients is even if she saw her son in person hourly, she would still worry about him because that has been the "normal" pattern for so many years. I see this as a high risk with little to no benefit situation and so a very easy decision to protect not only Mom, but the AL staff and residents too.
There is a restraining order in place. These vary enormously and we do not know the nature of it.

Giving the aunt's contact details to the cousin is clearly out of the question but there are plenty of other possibilities to explore short of cutting him out completely and permanently to the aunt's great distress.
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