Excerpt from Parents are a Treasure to some and a Treasury to others, Acknowledgements

First off, I have to offer up my gratitude to God.  No matter how horrific the end of my mother’s life was, I find solace knowing that He is sheltering her in His perfect arms.

I would like to thank all the longsuffering people who helped to make this book. Without your hard work, patience, and dedication, I would never have gotten to speak up for my mother and what was done to her. I don’t want to name names, because I know that my sister would not hesitate to try to harm you in retaliation, but you all know who you are.

I need to thank my late father, St. Elmo Gopaul. Though he has been gone these past twenty years, not a day has gone by when I have not grieved for him and drawn upon the wisdom and strength he imparted to me. I believe our family watches out over us from heaven, and I know that he loves all his children, and he is so proud of his grandchildren.

About the Author

Gail St. Elmo Gopaul was born on the island of Trinidad. She is the eldest child of Monica and St. Elmo Gopaul. and the mother of two amazing children. In 2014, she founded the NGO No More Domestic Violence, and is the author of No Regrets:  My Story as a Victim of Domestic Violence for 27 years. Gail lives in San Diego, California, but spends every moment she can back in Trinidad.

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Excerpt from Parents are a Treasure to some and a Treasury to others, A Dedication

I dedicate this book to my mother, Monica Irene Gopaul.  I wish that all who read this book could know the wonderful, loving, strong woman who had been my mother, and I hope that all who read this book come to appreciate and cherish their own parents.

Excerpt from Parents are a Treasure to some and a Treasury to others, A Prayer for Mom

I believe that our prayers for others can reach them, even in heaven. I believe that music, poetry, and art, is a universal language that reaches out and connects people on a level so deep and profound, that it can reach across the Great Beyond. Sharon-Ann took away my chance to say goodbye to my mother at her funeral. But every time I hear the song Everybody Hurts by R.E.M., I find a little bit of that sacred space that lets me mourn and honour her.

It gives me a chance to say, Mom, I share your pain and your sorrow. I miss you, and I am so sorry about what happened to you. But I hope you knew then and know now, that you are not alone.
None of us are ever alone.

Book Cover, Parents are a Treasure to some and a Treasury to other.

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What Causes Elder Abuse

 senior man hand pointing at text phrase elder abuse

There really is no one catch-all reason, but some of the factors that can contribute include

isolation

high stress levels

drug and/or alcohol abuse

medical issues

financial stress

a history of dysfunction between elder and caretaker

Isolation

women-friends-friendship-helping-together-160767
Abuse is more likely to flourish if a caretaker spends long hours alone with no one but the elder, or are the elder’s sole means of support and care.

What you can do about it

If you are a caretaker who is feeling overburdened, it is important that you seek help, formal and informal, from friends, family, and professionals. If you are an elder, it is important that you do not give up on staying connected to your family, friends, and your community even if your mobility has been reduced. If an elder is suffering from mental deterioration or substance abuse, it is vital that more people be brought on board with managing their care. Abuse is much less likely to take place when everybody is able to keep everybody else accountable.

 

 

High stress levels

pexels-photoTrying to juggle children, jobs, spouses, and caring for an elderly parent puts tremendous stress on a caretaker. They may also have medical problems of their own that aren’t being helped, or they are caring for a difficult parent or in-law.

  • What you can do about it

It is important that you find ways to reduce stress, step back from non-essential commitments, or seek out additional care. If you are suffering health issues yourself, it is important that you seek out help from family and friends. You need to take care of yourself along with everyone else, and you won’t take very good care of anyone if you feel overburdened and resentful.

 

 

Substance Abuse

Drugs and alcohol make any bad situation worse.

  • What you can do about it
    • If you have a problem with substance abuse, it is important that you get help. The National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP) can connect you to treatment services and information on how to get help.

Financial stress

dependent-dementia-woman-old-70578If a caretaker is dependent upon an elder for financial support, there is a higher risk of financial abuse. A caretaker may feel “entitled” to the elder’s money and possessions. Or, if the elder has very little money, the caretaker can feel their charge is a burden, and resent the cost of care. Either one can lead to elder financial abuse or psychological abuse.

What you can do about it

If you are experiencing stress over money, it is important that you talk it over with a qualified financial advisor. If you feel that caring for your parent or spouse is beyond your means, it is important to look into government assistant programs, or talk to other family members about sharing the financial burden of caring for the elder. And if you are an elder, it is important that you have multiple independent parties who can check up and review your finances, like a CPA, a trustee, an estate lawyer, or a financial advisor to insure that your are protected.

 

 

 

A History of Dysfunction Between Elder and Caretaker

Close up picture of an elderly woman's injured eye and nurse's fingers

Victims of domestic violence who become caretakers of their abuser can feel like this is a chance to “get even” with the parent or partner. Conversely, if a spouse has battered and abused his or her partner continuously, he or she is unlikely to stop just because their victim turned sixty-five.

What you can do about it

Not everyone who has been a victim of abuse turns out to be an abuser, but if you are feeling the urge to lash out at the elder in your care, it is important to talk to a licensed therapist, to help work out an anger management strategy.

Available today Gail’s new book, Parents are a Treasure to some and a Treasury to Others.

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Available as eBook and Hardcover September 15th 2017

Parents Are a Treasure to Some and a Treasury to Others: A True Story of Elder Abuse

By Gail St. Elmo Gopaul

 

Introducing the Latest Book from Gail St. Elmo Gopaul

 

This September 19th, Gail Gopaul returns with a new memoir. In No Regrets, Gopaul told the story of her abusive marriage: the struggles, the failures, and the triumphs that she faced as she escaped her marriage and got back her life.  In Parents are a Treasure to Some and a Treasury to Others: A True Story of Elder Abuse, Gopaul reveals her failed attempt to rescue her elderly mother from the hands of a greedy and manipulative relative. In simple, straightforward prose, Gopaul picks apart the web her sister wove, trapping the whole Gopaul family into a cycle of dysfunction and fear.

Interview with Gail Saint Elmo Gopaul

img_0858cParents are a Treasure to Some and a Treasury to Others is available now from the Order Page, Lulu.com and Amazon

So, what prompted you to write this book?

Gopaul: I wrote this book because I wanted to take back my power.

Could you elaborate?

Gopaul: Not being able to help my mother and being threatened and bad-mouthed by my sister left me feeling weak and scared.  I was afraid to tell my truth.  I was afraid that Sharon-Ann might do something to me or to the people I care about; I was afraid that no one would believe me. Sharon-Ann put a lot of energy into telling me and everyone else that I was crazy and evil, and it made me feel powerless to help my mother, or to stand up and defend myself.  By telling my side of the story, I am attempting to stick-up for myself and for my mother.

In this book, you don’t seem to pull any punches.  You accuse your sister outright of financial elder abuse and neglect. Are you worried about the consequences?

Gopaul: No.  Well, a little.  I doubt that this book will make my sister find Jesus and repent or anything like that.  She’ll be angry, and I’ve no doubt that she’ll have lots to say about me in response.  But I knew that going in to this project that she would probably do that.  The point of this book was to defend myself against the lies that had been told about me, and to get some small measure of justice for my mother.  I already know that Sharon-Ann Gopaul feels no remorse for what she did.

And what did she do?

Gopaul: My sister put herself in a position to take control of my mother’s finances and health decisions.  She refinanced our mother’s house and put herself and her husband, Ulric, on the deed; she controlled who Mom would see or what kind of medical assistance Mom could get.  She knew that Mom was falling into dementia, and exploited that, telling Mom all kinds of unsubstantiated lies about me and others, to convince our Mother that Sharon-Ann alone was there to protect and guide Mom against us evil, conspiring relatives.  She sold Mom’s belongings and pocketed the money.  She arranged for the cheapest assistance possible for Mom, and picked an unqualified home health aide, which lead to Mom being neglected and living in squalor. Then, after I tried to get Mom out of the house, she illegally obtained power of attorney.  Once she did that, it was only a matter of months before she sold Mom’s house and stuffed my mother in the cheapest nursing home she could find.

In your book, you claim that Sharon-Ann targeted you specifically in her attempt to exclude you from your mother, how did you come to that conclusion?

Gopaul:  Well, for starters, her smear campaign was almost exclusively against me.  She threatened anyone who sided with me, but I was the one kicking up the biggest fuss over Mom.  I was the one who kept demanding transparency and accountability. Eventually, I was the one making the most direct accusations, so I was the enemy that needed to be eliminated or discredited. Don’t listen to Crazy Gail, she was trying to tell everyone.

How would you describe yourself?

Gopaul:  Direct.  Blunt. Reactionary.  But also, fiercely protective.  I tend to see issues in black and white, and when I see someone do something wrong, I tend to get angry and come up fighting.  Man beats a wife?  He’s a manipulative psychopath that needs to be in jail, and his wife needs to get herself and her kids to safety.  Period.  I’ve never been good at sticking to a script, or artful flattery.  If someone is acting like a bitch, I’m going to call them a bitch.  You understand what I’m saying? That’s why I was such an easy target for Sharon-Ann.

So your sister is different from you?

Gopaul: Completely.  She is a psychologist, and a very good one.  She flatters, she pays attention, she knows how to control a conversation so that she gets people to do what [she wants] while making them think that it was their idea.  And if they see through that, then she threatens.  Subtle threats, clear threats, indirect threats…and she carries through on them too.  She has an agenda, and heaven help whoever gets in the way of that agenda…She’s ambitious, and that’s a not a bad thing.  The problem is that the ends always justify the means for her, which means there is little value for people who she deems useless or troublesome.

In your book, you use a couple of metaphors. You compare her to Iago, from Shakespeare’s Othello, and at another point you talk about queen bees, could you elaborate?

Gopaul:  Well, in Othello, Iago is an ambitious solider who is angry at Othello for giving a promotion to someone else, and so sets out on a careful plan to destroy Othello by turning him against all the people that are loyal to him. Iago was a clever manipulator, and would put doubt and suspicion into Othello’s head in just such a way that never directly implicated himself—and Sharon-Ann certainly possesses Iago’s talent and ruthlessness!  As for the metaphor about bees, I think it speaks to what happens when two people with strong personalities clash—there can only be one queen bee per nest, and the one who moves quicker and without mercy is the one who survives.  From Sharon-Ann’s perspective, since I wasn’t going to be a good worker bee (or at least a complicit drone), I needed to be eliminated, or I would threaten everything that she worked to accomplish. There was a lot of money at stake, but more than that, there was her reputation to consider.   Her power as a master manipulator and politician is rooted in being able to control her public image, and a wild bee like myself is a huge liability.

Shifting topics, a bit, what do you hope to accomplish with this book?

Gopaul:  Well first off, I hope that my parents, as they look down upon me from heaven, will in some way forgive me for not being able to protect my mother. On a temporal, practical level, I hope that this book will let people know my side of the story.  A lot of people are afraid to stand up to Sharon-Ann, and with good reason, but I hope that by being the first one to call her out on her behaviour…others will do the same.  The only way to stop a bully is if everyone stands up against her.

This book is a departure from your last book, which was not just about your abusive marriage, but also an instructional guidebook for people thinking about leaving an abusive partner.  Why the shift?

Gopaul:  there was talk, at first, of following the same format, but ultimately, I felt like I didn’t want to dilute the impact of this book by trying to accomplish two different goals at once—though there is a glossary and resource pages in the back of the book.  I felt that if I stopped every couple of chapters to offer anecdotal examples or definitions of what abuse is, then the implications of how dangerous Sharon-Ann Gopaul is to the people of Trinidad would get lost.  It’s about priorities.  I want to end all forms of abuse on the island, but Sharon-Ann has accused me of being an abusive criminal, all the while acting like an abusive criminal to our mother.  I had to address this first before trying to get into the problems with how abuse is handled in Trinidad.

Would you say then, that elder abuse is rampant in Trinidad?

Gopaul:  Absolutely.  Part of it is because of the weak laws that we have; part of it is a lack of follow through and enforcement of what few laws we have; a large part is a severe lack of oversight or resources for abused elders and elders in care facilities, and part of it is a sort-of weary acceptance on the part of many, many people, that this sort of thing is normal.

When does you book come out? How much will it cost and where can people get copies?

Gopaul: the release date is the 15th of September.  I will be doing a book tour at that time.  The books will sell for $237 for hardcover and $54 for e-copy from Amazon and Barnes and Nobel, but anyone who orders the book directly from the website, www.NoMoreDV.org, or from me when I’m on tour will only be charged $121 [before shipping] and $27 respectively.

Why the steep discount?

Gopaul: I’m not out to make a profit with these books. I just need to charge enough to pay for the publication, shipping, and marketing of the book, and when people order it through Amazon, I need to be able to cover Amazon’s mark-up.  I’m not doing this to make money, I just want people to know the truth.

 

 

Warning Signs of Elder Abuse

Signs of Abuse

Because there is a lot of overlap between signs of frailty and dementia and signs of abuse, it can be easy to dismiss the red flags, especially when there is a caretaker at the elder’s elbow, claiming that the bruises or burns came from an accident in the kitchen.

There are some general warning signs of abuse to look out for.

  •         Is there a lot of tension or frequent arguments between the caregiver and the elder?
  •         Have you noticed any changes in the elder’s behaviour or personality?
  •         Is the caregiver reluctant to let you talk to the elder alone?

Warning signs of physical abuse

  •         unexplained injuries, broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  •         inconsistent application of medication:  drug overdose or failure to take needed medication
  •         signs of restraints being used, such as rope marks on wrists
  •         caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the elder alone

Emotional abuse is harder to spot, but generally, it will be something you see or hear when it occurs, rather than observing after the fact

  •         threatening or controlling behaviour against the senior, such as yelling, insulting, threatening, or belittling

For example, continually calling the elder stupid or worthless, or continually threatening to “put them in a home,” if they don’t do what the caregiver wants

Sexual elder abuse

This list is not conclusive.  Sometimes sexual predators leave no obvious signs of physical injury.  If an elder comes forward and reveals that a caretaker is assaulting them, it is important to take them seriously.

  •         bruises around the breast or genitals
  •         unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
  •         torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

Neglect can occur both at the hands of a caregiver or through self-neglect.

Self-neglect happens when an elderly person is unable to care for himself or herself anymore, but refuses help.

Signs that a caregiver is neglecting an elder include:

  •         unexplained weight loss
  •         malnutrition
  •         dehydration
  •         physical problems that go untreated (bedsores, infections, dental issues, etc.)
  •         unsanitary living conditions, including soiled bedding and clothes
  •         being left unwashed and dirty
  •         unsuitable clothing for the weather
  •         unsafe living conditions (no heat, no running water, severe insect infestation, etc.)

Financial abuse

  •         suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles, and insurance policies
  •         significant and unexplained withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  •         items missing from the elder’s household
  •         additional names added to bank accounts, credit cards, titles and property deeds
  •         financial activity that the elder couldn’t have authorized, such as ATM withdrawals, especially by third parties
  •         unpaid bills or lack of medical care, even if the elder has enough money to pay for them
  •         caregivers refusing elders access to their own financial records