As an unmarried mum with two kids, Monica was always well supported by her own mother, Grace.

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Sharlene inherited someone else’s mum

As an unmarried mum with two kids, Monica was always well supported by her own mother, Grace.

Sharlene inherited someone else’s mum

As an unmarried mum of two kids, Monica was always well supported by her own mother, Grace. Grace used her superannuation to buy Monica (her only child) a house and to build a granny flat in the backyard for herself. She thought she was set with secure housing for the rest of her life and was enjoying her retirement. For a time, all was well.

Then Monica met Barry and they began a live-in relationship. Barry and Grace did not get on well. Grace thought he was a gold-digger as he had no independent means of living, no job and no assets. According to Grace he was an intimidating bully. She believes Barry coerced Monica into selling the house and moving interstate to where his own children resided. Grace was not invited to move with them, nor did she want to.

She asked for 50 per cent of the sale price of the property she had purchased outright with her own money. There had been significant capital gain in the time they had lived there, so she felt there was plenty of money for both to share.

However, Barry argued he was now a de-facto spouse, the house was half his and Grace had no further claim on it, producing legal evidence to back up his claim. 

Grace was devastated and was forced to look for accommodation elsewhere. As an emergency measure, a woman called Sharlene who had been providing a few hours of home care for Grace, offered her a spare room in her house.

Three years later, Grace is still living in Sharlene’s spare room. Sharlene has become Grace’s carer while she continues working full-time as a home care worker.

“I can’t just turf her out into the street,” Sharlene said. “But having her living in the house is having a detrimental effect on my own life.

“Grace is ageing and her health needs are escalating. I am constantly finding myself needing to take her to medical appointments and I am doing more and more things for her. It is quite a challenge as I am juggling a very physically demanding work role plus looking after this ageing woman who is not even related to me.

“In the beginning she was able to help with the cooking and cleaning a little, but now she does very little of that. So in effect, I am caring for another dependent and it is limiting what I can do in my own home. It feels like I have no free time for myself anymore.

“I just want to have my own space back and I would like to have a spare room for when my daughter and grandkids visit, but Grace is in that room.

“She is a lovely lady and I feel a lot of compassion for her, but this was only ever supposed to be a temporary measure and three years on, I am stuck in a situation I can’t easily resolve.

“Her own daughter does not ring anymore because each time she rings, they argue. Grace has not seen her daughter since the move interstate.

“Grace is very aware of her precarious situation. Her aged pension does not go very far and she is frugal with her spending. She tries to do as much as she can for herself, but she has severe rheumatoid arthritis in both hands now, which is extremely limiting. Also, like many people with arthritis she gets very depressed at times.

“The fact is she has a lot to be depressed about. She tries to be tough, but she cries a lot when she thinks no-one’s around.”

The World Health Organisation estimates in developed countries, including Australia, one in every six people aged 60 and older will be subjected to abuse in one form or another, most commonly by their own offspring. 

This abuse is scarcely visible however, because many aging parents can’t bring themselves to take legal action against their children. Such cases usually come to the attention of the law only when they involve high-level violence up to occasioning death, if spectacular sums of money are contested, or if raised in the media.


If you witness, suspect or experience abuse, call the NSW Elder Abuse Helpline & Resource Unit on 1800 628 221 for information, support and referrals.

If you require an interpreter, first call 131 450 (Translating and Interpreting Service) and tell the operator your preferred language.

If there is an emergency or immediate danger, call 000.