I am the first to defend our right to privacy. It’s one of the reasons I have never considered politics as a career.
It is a right, and a legislated one at that, meant to protect us from unnecessary intrusion, allowing many of us to live in blissful anonymity. It is a shield against those forces that would attempt to unveil and invade our personal lives.
In the wrong hands, however, it can be used as a weapon – How you may well ask?
One of the insidious tools of trade of the parent abuser is the isolation of that parent. Often, they are empowered by being anointed as the parent’s Enduring Power of Attorney and reside with the parent. They are usually a member of the family who seek to turn the home into a veritable castle surrounded on all sides by a fathomless moat unassailable by outside interests such as the other members of the family.
Their conniving ways know no bounds, the seed for which is the desire to control. It all happens in little and cumulative ways:
- cutting off the landline so the only way to communicate is the mobile phone held by the isolater
- changing the locks so you just can’t call in unexpectedly
- telling you that mum or dad doesn’t want to see you or the grandkids
- frustrating attempts to see mum or dad
- converting mum or dad’s accounts to online ones which only the isolater can access
- not giving basic information when you ask for it
Needless to say, such devices do nothing but exacerbate suspicions and concerns about what’s really going on.
You then try to do some investigations by contacting other interested parties such as their doctor, the bank, Centrelink and home care organisations. Their response? – “Sorry we can’t help you. I’m sure you will understand we need to protect and respect the privacy of your mum or dad.” That is a lawful and appropriate response but it doesn’t help your legitimate concerns.
What to do?
Fear not – there is a knight in shining armour who can breach the barricades and moat – The Public Guardian. It is a statutory authority established to protect the interests of the vulnerable, and in particular to protect an adult from exploitation, neglect or abuse. I call them the incapacity policemen. Isolation is a form of abuse.
Amongst other things, they have the power to:
- Require anyone to give information or documents about an adult
- Suspend an enduring power of attorney
As you will be frustrated by the constant assertion of privacy, the Public Guardian is not. As such, they are the perfect vehicle for you to express your concerns and hopefully to initiate an investigation. Be aware however, that they can only investigate a complaint if it is about an adult who has lost their capacity. You will not normally be able to provide evidence of that (because of the isolation) but be assured – the Public Guardian can require people, such as doctors, to give information about a patient’s capacity.
In the end, we are all naturally concerned about what happens to our mum and dad in later life when they enter that age of frailty and dependency. When your concerns are met by a wall of isolation, dismissiveness and censorship, you now know what you can do – you can fight the forces of privacy.
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