Gail Gopaul is warning that if her own mother Monica Gopaul could suffer from elder abuse and neglect, then it could happen to anyone’s parent.
Gopaul wrote her first book, “No Regrets” where she told her story of her abusive marriage of 27 years, the struggles, failures and triumphs she faced to escape the marriage and get back her life.
In a second book, “Parents are a Treasure to Some and a Treasury to Others: A true Story of Elder Abuse”, Gopaul tells of her failed attempt to rescue her elderly mother from the hands of a relative, who attempted to manipulate and deceive her.
The book speaks about Gopaul’s attempt to save her mother and help her live out her golden years in comfort and peace.
Instead, Gopaul’s blind mother was placed in a home where she was confined to a wheelchair in a locked room, with acrid smells of urine and the musty, stale smell of dry-rot all around her. Gopaul said her mother was her teacher and instructor who was a primary school teacher and retired as a principal.
This private and dignified woman was left to live in a communal home without private rooms or bathrooms...left to live in filth, Gopaul said.
She said her inability to help her mother after she (Gopaul) was threatened and bad-mouthed by the relative left her feeling scared and weak.
“I was afraid to tell the truth. I was afraid (the relative) might do something to me or to the people I care about. I was afraid that no one would believe me,” Gopaul said.
While Newsday did not publish the name of the relative, Gopaul had no qualms doing so in her book.
Saying she expects there to be some consequences, she doubted that the book would, “help the relative find Jesus and repent.”
Gopaul said she expected the relative to be angry and had no doubt that would have a lot to say about her in response.
She said the relative positioned herself to control Gopaul’s mother’s finances and health decisions and even refinanced her mother’s house.
The deed to Gopaul’s mother’s house was also amended to have the relative’s name on it. Gopaul’s mother fell into dementia.
Gopaul said that after her relative sold her (Gopaul) mother’s household possessions and pocketed the money, she (Gopaul) decided to write a book.
Gopaul said the relative found the cheapest nursing home and an unqualified home health aide, which led to her mother being neglected and living in squalor. When Gopaul attempted to have her mother removed, the relative illegally obtained a power of attorney to have her stopped. Her mother lived out her life feeling unloved and unwanted.
Gopaul described herself as direct and blunt, also fiercely protective. “I tend to see things in black and white, and when I see someone doing something wrong, I tend to get angry and come up fighting. I’ve been good at sticking to a script or artful flattery.” Gopaul said elder abuse was rampant in Trinidad and Tobago because of weak law.
She said existing laws lack follow through and enforcement.
Many elderly people suffer neglect and even physical abuse at homes where they are dumped by alleged loved ones and left to die.
A Trinidadian by birth, Gopaul now lives in San Diego, California and is the mother of two. She is the founder of the non-governmental organisation “No More Domestic Violence.”