Case study: Adult child at home

Seniors Rights1Vivienne

Facts

Vivienne was in her late 80s and had been living with her middle-aged son Steven for a number of years. Vivienne received an aged pension but had no other income. She had a minor disability but was otherwise fairly independent and self-sufficient. Steven received a carer’s pension but did not provide his mother with any real care or domestic support.

Vivienne had originally asked her son to move in with her because she recognised he had a substance abuse problem, and thought he could recover with her help. In fact, Steven had continued to use drugs and this had led to him abusing Vivienne verbally and psychologically, sabotaging her disability aids, taking or misusing her possessions, and isolating her socially. He did not assist with housework, and did not contribute to the costs of the household. Vivienne’s quality of life had suffered and she had become depressed and fearful.

Action

Seniors Rights Victoria met with Vivienne and assessed her situation. It was clear she wished to go on offering her son support in relation to his addiction, but felt she could no longer live with his abusive behaviour. Seniors Rights Victoria explained her legal options, including evicting her son, which she did not wish to do.

As an alternative, Seniors Rights Victoria suggested the service could intervene by either a lawyer or an advocate writing to Steven on her behalf to request specific changes in his conduct, including that he seek treatment for his addiction. The letter would set a deadline for these changes, after which Steven would be facing eviction if he hadn’t met the conditions in the letter. Seniors Rights Victoria also offered Vivienne ongoing advocacy support while her son made the changes in his life and behaviour that she had requested.

Outcome

Vivienne decided to proceed with a letter to Steven from a lawyer, understanding that she would receive advocacy support to manage the process. In the event this included the advocate meeting and phoning both Vivienne and Steven a number of times to help Vivienne negotiate the arrangement and improve her communication with Steven; and identifying supports and services Steven could access.

Steven sought help for his addiction and modified his behaviour in other ways. Vivienne and Steven continue to live together, and both their relationship and Vivienne’s psychological wellbeing have improved.