Dear Mary: Does This Seem Cruel to You?

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Dear Mary: Does This Seem Cruel to You?Dear Mary,

I was talking with my brother who lives close to my Dad’s seniors’ residence. I live 2,500 miles away and miss being there. David was telling me about how Dad’s hearing aids went missing a couple of months ago. Since then, my brother bought him new ones, but only lets my Dad wear them when he goes to visit him. David visits my Dad once a week. When he arrives he lets my Dad use the hearing aids. When David leaves, he takes them with him. He does not want to keep paying for hearing aids, he is afraid that the new ones will also go missing. I think that this is crazy and cruel. What do you think?



Dear Joe:

I will take your comments one step further. Not only is your brother being crazy and cruel but I would venture to say it sounds like elder abuse too. I am clearly not an expert on elder abuse but I do know that one form of elder abuse is isolation.

Without hearing aids, your Dad is isolated. He will not be able to enjoy:

-Music, television or movies

-Conversations with others over meals or throughout the day

-Participation in many activities at the home

He will also be left out of conversations about:

-His health

-What foods he might like

-Any warnings of fire alarms in the building

I think your brother is focusing on totally the wrong thing. Your father’s enjoyment, participation in society and safety are the most important issues. Your brother needs to return the hearing aids to your father. Check with the local hearing aid society in your area for their help or recommendations. You might also want to check with the local police department or an elder abuse agency. They will give you professional information about isolation as one form of elder abuse. Knowledge is power. Get the knowledge to prove to your brother that he is not acting in your Dad’s best interests.

Yes, I agree with you. Your brother is crazy and cruel, and your Dad may be a victim of elder abuse!


Message from Mary Bart: I was my parents’ principal caregiver for ten years. I have first-hand experience in helping aging parents, dealing with family dynamics, protecting parents from elder abuse and working with public and private organizations. Do you have a question for me? Please email your questions to:

An important note: I love answering your questions, but I also encourage you to seek professional legal, financial, or medical assistance. Mary.


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Mary Bart is the Chair of Caregiving Matters, a registered charity that offers education and support to family caregivers. She was her parents’ principal caregiver for ten years and first-hand experience in helping aging parents, dealing wit...