What is “elder abuse”? “Physical” is, unfortunately, prevalent but, less easy to detect, is “psychological” and “financial” abuse. Most of us are wise to the con man who persuades an elderly person a job needs doing and then vastly overcharges them; some are not. Many tactics to part a pensioner and their money are more subtle and can involve psychological abuse.
Once part of a happy family, Adrienne Nairn decided to record how a secret resulted in a bitter family feud spanning years. Fought out between two siblings, the wider family, social agencies, a number of Police forces, a succession of lawyers, mediators and the Courts in Britain became involved.
She says she was motivated to write her autobiography, My Brother My Enemy, because she has found herself in a position many families experience following the loss of a loved one. In this case it was her father, who, on his deathbed, asked her to keep a secret, which eventually led to the battle she fought with her own brother, a former British Army Special Services soldier, trained in psychological warfare, who went on to act as a mercenary for the Sultan of Oman.
Her story canvasses a whole array of issues – allegations of elder abuse, the misuse of powers of attorney, the waste of Police and social welfare agency time and resources, and the way in which some members of a family act when inheritances and endowments are involved. Some of Adrienne’s discoveries are enlightening, some horrifying.
This is a story often played out throughout the world, with devastating effect. Although unintended and entirely unforeseen by the benefactor, monetary and property gifts can bring division to even the best of well-bonded families.
My Brother My Enemy is also a portrayal of the wedge that can be driven through families when money and power take precedence over common sense and loyalty.
But beyond this personal story of two siblings who became enemies, it should also serve as a timely reminder for those with parents approaching their twilight years, or those who know they are nearing the end of their lives.
As this book demonstrates, looking to the Police or the Courts for salvation in these circumstances is fraught with difficulty and expense.
Nothing is ever as it seems and in the case of families and their estates, legal advice – solicited independently of any future beneficiaries by those who are making such gestures – is not only wise but should, in the view of the author, be written into British law.
Without such representation, decades of personal anguish and turmoil can result, and as My Brother My Enemy reveals, it often does.
Whilst this story is set in the UK, the problem followed Adrienne to New Zealand as her brother involved the Police and even Interpol, using scare tactics, in an effort to stop her investigating the matter. She managed to uncover evidence of fraud and possibly criminal action but only hit a brick wall in trying to deal with authorities in Britain.
Many people may be able to identify with the underlying subject matter but in fact the way the perpetrator acted is unique in that it became not just a matter of Wills and Powers of Attorney; they were irrelevant. A cunning plan was instigated and acted upon in secret. My Brother My Enemy divulges this plan and what happened when it was finally uncovered. Was the attempt to cut out ten beneficiaries from inheriting anything from the elderly victim successful? Could anything be done and where do the authorities stand in all this?
Adrienne is passionate about her subject and what she is now trying to do is make people aware of the dangers, advocating changes of law in the UK.
The abuse is mainly by adult sons and daughters with authority to manage an aged parent’s affairs under the legal tool called an “enduring power of attorney”. Seeking redress is slow and expensive, and there is often uncertainty about the outcome.
Now living in New Zealand, Adrienne knows there is a call there for an Aged Care Commissioner. This new aged care watchdog would have legal power to tackle the rising incidence of financial abuse of vulnerable elderly people. They would be able to investigate complaints of financial abuse of the vulnerable elderly and to ask the Family Court to intervene if abuse of legal powers is detected. This Aged Care Commissioner, akin to the Health and Disability Commissioner, would have legal powers to investigate complaints of abuse and to ask the Family Court to review how a person has managed an enduring power of attorney. Authorities are certainly worried by the increasing number of elderly people being ripped off.
Adrienne’s book carries a message for everyone – the outcome almost defies belief – and she has given talks locally to Probus; the National Party, Women’s Section; U3A and Hospice and Residential Care Homes.
She is a volunteer with Hospice and Age Concern and last year was a medallist in the Kiwi Bank New Zealander of the Year Local Heroes Awards. She donates widely, a large donation in the UK was to the Royal British Legion. The last of the books, My Brother My Enemy remain in Scotland and are available for sale through www.ablelimitededitions.co.uk for £10. Discounts of up to 25% are available on boxes of 36 giving purchasers an opportunity to on sell for an organisation or charity. Adrienne has sold over 1500 copies of her book in New Zealand but feels this is an opportunity for market traders and entrepreneurs to promote her book by sales in the UK. Once all copies are sold then she will make a donation to charity.
The book is also available for sale on amazon.com and at one stage reached No. 2 in the best selling list in its genre. It is an intriguing, unusual and interesting read.
Adrienne is married living with her husband in Taupo, New Zealand. She has a daughter who lives with her family in Sydney.
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