Unfortunately, in the eldercare world, there are frequent findings of jealousy within families and in particular between the children of the senior or between children and the spouse of an elderly person. In some cases the jealousy is long-standing and goes back as far as childhood when sibling rivalries began, when there was a troubled marriage or perhaps a second or third marriage in a family. In other cases there is known or perceived favoritism of a particular sibling or several siblings that causes strife in the family dynamics which last well into adulthood. At other times jealousy occurs between family members when a senior is aging and there is the opportunity for a shift in power, control and financial gain. Jealousy and undue influence and financial exploitation of a senior or other vulnerable adult can also be found in any relationship including those between the elder and a caregiver, a neighbor, a sibling, a parent (in the case of a younger vulnerable adult) or even casual acquaintances who become aware of a situation.
Jealousy rears its ugly head when there is a perception that one person or one group of people are receiving something that another person or group of people wishes to have. Common initiating factors which are frequently apparent in the life of a senior include which person is chosen to be the decision maker for the senior if the senior can no longer make decisions, such as a Power of Attorney or Health Care Agent assignment. This appointment of ‘power’ is seen as favoritism by the others ‘in the know’ and jealousy is a possible resultant factor. If this occurs then those who were not ‘chosen’ may take matters into their own hands to attempt to influence the senior or vulnerable adult to give them power in the same or similar capacity. This can be perpetuated through a jealous family member convincing the elder to change legal documents or to sign new documents giving them the status, belongings or money they desire to obtain. It also occurs in a more subversive manner when the jealous person undermines the bonds of the family as a whole so that amidst the chaos they have created, they manipulate matters into an arrangement in which they benefit in a means they find acceptable or in a manner in which all participants lose.
Another jealousy factor is often related to actual or possible financial gains or losses. If one child is slated to gain more funds than another then the person receiving less or no financial benefit attempts to get theirs before the estate is spent or divided in a way non-pleasing to them. A clear example of this includes a situation in which elderly parents, each with some cognitive deficit, provided a sum of money to child ‘B’ to aid him in buying a home but they did not provide that sum of money to the other siblings when they purchased homes. When the other siblings find out, their jealousy regarding sibling ‘B’ is substantial enough that they persuade the elderly parents to give all children a financial amount equal to what they provided to child ‘B’.
In other cases favoritism that is long standing or perhaps new is deemed reason to exploit a parent for the attention they spent on a sibling or with a spouse or step-parent and so on. Those wanting their share of time and or attention with an adult related to their own jealousy results in their isolating the senior or vulnerable adult to prevent other people (including siblings, grandchildren, spouses or significant others) from having access to that senior via mail, phone or visitation. In these cases jealousy can become so severe that the person isolating the senior loses all perspective on the dire impact their behavior has on the senior, the relationships of those involved and the well being of that senior in the future. Very often these situations destroy family relationships and at times the senior or vulnerable adult may then end up needing legal advocacy and protection.
Jealousy involving those who are related to a senior or vulnerable adult in some fashion frequently escalates to situations of undue influence or exploitation of that elder. Jealousy can precipitate financial duress, social isolation, physical harm and emotional abuse of the elderly person. Jealousy seldom brings positive outcomes and instead perpetuates divisiveness and unwarranted suffering.
Matrix AdvoCare Network provides nursing care management and health care advocacy services for seniors and people with disabilities. For more information on Geriatric Care Management services please visit www.matrixadvocare.com