Author Soroptimist Maree Lubach, Cofounder of KinKare, grandparent support group on the south side of Brisbane, established in 2002,  Council of Grandparents representative for grandparents, from its inception in 2003 and I am currently President of QCOGs.

In contemporary society, elders are more visible, more active, and remain independent much longer than before. All individuals deserve to remain safe from those who live with, care for, or interact with them on a consistent basis. The fundamental belief that every individual, no matter how young or old, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect reflects the basic premise of human rights and gender equality.
Margie Eckroth-Bucher, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC
Aging Well
Vol. 1 No. 4 P. 24

Most of our Elders/Seniors are grandparents, so why write an article titled this way?
Because there are some very unique sets of circumstances where our grandparents are being abused which are rarely acknowledged, let alone addressed. This abuse falls mainly into the category of emotional abuse.

Both emotional abuse and abuse specific to grandparents seem to have become “taboo” topics. Hidden away and not falling under anybody’s definitions or areas of concern, emotionally tormented and tortured grandparents are slipping through the cracks in the social assistance programmes and law reform initiatives of many different cultures and societies.

Emotional abuse, of all types and forms, is usually given only “lip service” by our authorities and medical practitioners. Just try to find some sort of meaningful definition and you will quickly understand my point here. It is as slippery as an eel and equally as hard to pinpoint. However, many professionals agree that emotional abuse can have worse long term effects on the victim than physical abuse with some even maintaining it has worse effects than either this or sexual abuse.

No matter which side of the fence you sit on, the devastating effects of emotional abuse on our Elders, particularly from family, cannot be denied or underestimated. The specific age of these Elders/Seniors is totally irrelevant to their vulnerability or ability to withstand the physical and emotional consequences.

So what are these unique sets of circumstances? Are they

  • Physical abuse: definitely likely to be quickly acted on as bruises, blood and broken bones are easy to document and prove
  • Financial abuse; usually recognized even if not addressed in a timely manner
  • Social isolation/abuse; increasingly becoming an icon of government boasts in delivery of services to their communities?

None of the above.

They are; The using/abusing of the strong bonds grandparents have for their grandchildren for personal gain by the parents.

This may take the form of simply asking the grandparents to “baby sit” for extraordinary lengths of time encroaching on the grandparents freedom to enjoy their retirement, or the more abusive raising of their grandchildren or worse still, denying grandparents their right to form a relationship with their grandchildren.

I say this is worse only because, in my 15 years of experience working with and supporting grandparents in need, this situation is the one I feel has the lowest necessity, or reason, for inflicting abuse on grandparents. You may argue that drug addiction, the primary cause of grandparents raising grandchildren, is a lower necessity or reason, but my experience is that the using/abusing of drugs comes before the children are born.

This is despite most grandparents relating it to be the other way around. Grandparents are typically in denial of the symptoms of drug abuse in their own children and are rarely aware of the actual commencement of the use. Many grandparents are more comfortable accepting that their children are abusing alcohol. In reality, alcohol is just another drug and the so-called “safe” marihuana can be as potent as any designer drug in certain circumstances.

But what about you and your family?

  • Your parenting has nothing to do with the likelihood of these problems surfacing
  • Your social standing/station in life is no immunity
  • The age of your children is no guide ; most grandparents report trouble beginning when their children are aged 30-40
  • Acceptance of your child’s new partner does not make you resistant
  • Do you have places to turn if you need them

As of June 5th 2017, I am retiring from my work in this field, but would be more than happy to assist any Soroptimist in need or wanting to work in this area.

Maree Lubach
SI Beenleigh

Maree has held Held consultative status with both the Federal and State Government committees following evidence given to enquiries.
Invited to serve on several reference committees as grandparent consultant and currently represent grandparents on the Queensland Government’s Carers Advisory Council, the Seniors Enquiry Line Reference Group
Participated in many research papers and initiatives.
Worked with Dr Ron Frey from the Talera Centre to assist grandparents and was invited to co present a session on grandparents with him at ISPCAN’s International Conference in Istanbul in 2012. (ISPCAN - International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and at a National Conference in Melbourne.
Attended and helped to organise 3 Qld grandparent conferences
Supported grandparents in need through telephone and personal contact for approximately 14 years.
Initiated and chaired up to 5 separate grandparent support groups.
Held consultative positions to many support groups throughout Qld and interstate.