Until I Met Jim: Shining a Light on Elder Abuse

Submitted by Linda Farmer

I never really understood Elder Abuse until I was traveling back home to see my parents. It was early in the morning and my eyes were getting heavy. A small diner sat beside the highway, so I decided to stop for coffee and to stretch my legs.

Upon entering, the diner’s lights were fairly dim. I saw an old man sitting alone, looking like he was having a hard time, not a friend in the world. I bought two cups of coffee and sat one down to the old gentleman, asking if I could have a seat.

“Yes,” he said, looking up. I could see the bruises on his face. “Thanks for the coffee.”

We began talking and he asked where I was headed. When I told him I was on my way to visit my parents, he looked up with the saddest eyes I have ever seen.

“Do you have children,” I asked, but he never answered. I sensed he didn’t want to discuss it.

After feeling as if time stood still, he finally said, “Never take your parents for granted. Parents should raise their children to become responsible adults, to deal with their problems within their lives and treat their parents with respect.”

I pondered that statement for a while along with his earlier action to my question concerning if he had children. “You seem to have a lot of wisdom when it comes to family matters.”

His battered face showed a small smile. “I didn’t think no one would have noticed.”

As our conversation went on, I got to know him better, finding out his name and where he lived. He stated his son started off good but as time passed, he started going downhill. The son began saying telling his father that because he was getting feeble, he didn’t need to be alone. Next thing the man knew, the son was living with him.

“It was okay for awhile, he was working and I had my Social Security check coming in every month,” said the battered man. “Then he decided he needed to be over all my financial matters, saying ‘It would be easier for me.’ But as time passed, he lost his job and when I’d say something about him returning to work, he would go off and start hitting me.”

The elder gentleman confessed the beating only got worse when his son was drunk. Jim stated that was why he liked to come and sit at the diner, to escape the tension and try and find a purpose in living. We sat and talked for awhile, it was good for him to have someone listen and care.

I told him about the resources I was familiar with and when I got ready to leave, I walked over and paid for Jim’s breakfast. Exiting the diner, I made a couple of calls, to the police and also to the Adult Protection Agency.

As I said, I really didn’t know much about Elder Abuse, until I met Jim.

June is nationally known as Elder Abuse Awareness Month. If you know or suspect someone that is elderly and being abused, please contact Stop Abusive Family Environments (SAFE) in Wyoming County at (304) 732 – 8176, McDowell County at (304) 436-8117 and Mercer County at (304) 324-7820.