So, let me say right up front that I believe my mother and my uncle have a highly dysfunctional relationship with my grandmother. They both carry years of resentment over perceived grievances throughout their lives. And it affects the way they treat my grandmother – my mom with her lack of urgency and unwillingness to inconvenience herself, and my uncle with his volatile outbursts and blaming her for everything that’s ever gone wrong in his life. Truthfully, my grandmother’s past manipulation has earned a certain amount of this. But she has dementia now and the lines between reality and the stories she has twisted throughout the years are blurred at best. My feeling is that if confrontation was going to happen, it should have been when she was able to defend herself – not now when she’s becoming increasingly dependent and vulnerable.
So here’s the problem. My uncle’s ex-girlfriend was helping us choose an in-home care agency since she’s worked in the field for a very long time and has insight that was enormously helpful to us. She pulled me aside and told me that she has grave concerns over my grandmother’s emotional and financial safety as it pertains to my uncle. He lives in Gramma’s home and has taken over Gramma’s bill paying. The Ex told me that she witnessed frequent verbal abuse of my grandmother during the time she and my uncle were together. She tried to act as peacemaker and also encouraged Gramma to kick my uncle out of her home. But Gramma always blamed his tirades on depression and the “wrongs” he’d experienced in his life (divorces, disappointments, broken dreams, blah, blah, blah). That he was verbally ugly toward Gramma came as no surprise – I saw it numerous times when I was younger - but the intensity of what I can only call verbal assaults given the Ex’s descriptions and Gramma’s obvious fear was new to me. My dad also saw it recently and said my uncle clearly crossed the line with the way he was screaming and cussing at her. He’s a big man, and she’s a tiny old lady. My dad said you could see how scared she was and how confused it made her. Luckily my dad was able to intervene and send my uncle outside. He’s a big man, too. But what happens when no one else is there?
The Ex broke up when the verbal abuse began to include her, and she felt at that time that it wasn’t her place to interfere with the family dynamic. But given our new dementia diagnosis and knowing that elder abuse is a much higher risk with dementia patients, she felt she needed to tell someone. Her belief is that it’s probably happening daily. She also said that my uncle has carried a debit card for Gramma’s account with him for years, and that he would use it to take her and her kids out to dinner, buy all of his gas, clothes, etc. He does work a full time job and makes good money, but he’d rather use hers.
I can’t ignore this. I also can’t confront him without knowing for certain what is really happening. My sisters (living out of state) are urging me to plant a granny-cam in her house. I’m pretty certain that is illegal, but short of hiding in the closet, I don’t know how else to get to the truth. And if I do get evidence, what the heck do I do with it? Illegal evidence isn’t admissible. Bottom line, though, if he’s abusing Gramma it needs to stop. He should not be allowed to continue holding POA - which he shares with my mom - he shouldn’t be allowed to be alone with Gramma, and he should not have access to her accounts. I don’t care about what happens after she dies. What he inherits, which is half of the assets to the best of my knowledge, is not my concern. My grandfather and grandmother made that decision long ago, and I respect their wishes. But I can’t allow abuse to continue, if indeed it is occurring. My mom, I think, would be happy to pretend she doesn’t know about it. She told me that if I take action and it causes my uncle to be removed from the home, Gramma will die. But is it better to leave her in a situation where she is being abused? I just can’t believe that.
What do you think? Has anyone gone through this before? Any great bits of advice or experience to share?