Unfortunately tales of elder abuse are in the news far too often and are only now beginning to get the attention they deserve. Elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse can affect people of all ethnic backgrounds and social status and can affect both men and women.
What is Elder Abuse
Elder abuse may include any of the following:
Physical Abuse – Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
Emotional Abuse – Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
Sexual Abuse – Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
Exploitation – Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.
Neglect – Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
Abandonment – The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Mickey Rooney has been a victim
Thankfully some high-profile cases are making the headlines. For example only last week, Mickey Rooney made elder abuse allegations against his stepson.
The 90-year-old actor filed suit on Thursday September 15th in Los Angeles Superior Court. He asserts that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. The lawsuit accuses Rooney’s stepson Christopher Aber, Aber’s wife, Christina, and others of breach of fiduciary trust, elder abuse, fraud and other crimes over the past decade.
“While Chris instilled fear in Mickey and kept him in poverty, Chris took advantage of his unfettered access to Mickey’s income,” according to the filing. “Chris consistently paid himself a generous salary from Mickey’s earnings, took `advances’ on his salary, and spent Mickey’s money as if it were his own.”
Christopher Aber is also accused of applying for and using credit cards in Rooney’s name to lead an extravagant lifestyle – and used Rooney’s money to finance two Mercedes Benz cars, a Porsche and a $100,000 racecar.
Governments Are Paying Attention to Senior Abuse
This follows up on an earlier appearance before a senate committee on aging in March where Rooney took a Stand Against Elder Abuse.
“Unfortunately, I’m testifying by the committee today not just as a concerned citizen, which we all should be, but as a victim of older abuse — elder abuse, myself,” Rooney said. “For years I suffered silently, unable to muster the courage to seek the help that I knew I needed. Even when I tried to speak up, I was silenced. It seemed like no one believed me. But I never gave up.”
“To those seniors and especially elderly veterans — Army, Navy, Marine — you veterans like myself I want to tell you this: You’re not alone and you have nothing nothing, ladies and gentlemen, to be ashamed of,” Rooney said. “You deserve, yes you deserve better. You all have the right to control your own life.”
The goal of the senate hearing, entitled “Justice for All: Ending Elder Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation,” was to draw attention to the widely underreported problem and coordinate federal, state and local efforts to combat it.
A Fighter Against Elder Abuse Gets Recognition
Perhaps an indicator that the message is getting through is that one of the MacArthur ‘genius’ grants is going to a D.C. activist who fights elder abuse. Marie-Therese Connolly will be awarded the MacArthur genius grant for her work to prevent elder abuse.
Connolly, who for years has been trying to place elder abuse in the national spotlight, is being awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the $500,000, “no strings attached,” so-called “genius” grant given annually to a couple dozen artists, thinkers, social advocates and historians.
In issuing the award, the foundation said Connolly, a 54-year-old District resident and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, has “devoted her career to laying bare the many forms of elder abuse: physical and psychological, as well as financial exploitation and wrongful deprivation of rights.”
Five million older citizens are said to be victimized annually, but as many as 96 percent of these cases go unreported. Advocates fear that as the baby boom generation ages and stretches resources, the problem will grow more severe and widespread.
Connolly was the architect of the Elder Justice Act, which was passed by Congress last year, the first piece of federal legislation to address the issue. In 2007, she left the Justice Department and has founded a nonprofit organization called Life Long Justice, dedicated to helping fight elder abuse, and is writing a book about the subject. The Life Long Justice website highlights the problem:
We have spent billions to lengthen life, and more older people than ever before live active, fulfilling lives. But recent research gives reason for concern:
- 7.6% – 11% of people 60+ at home are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation.
- 47% of people with dementia at home are abused or neglected by their caregivers.
- For every one case of elder abuse that comes to light, 23.5 do not.
- 50% – 90% of nursing homes are understaffed at levels that harm residents.
The Time for Action on Elder Abuse is Now
We will all get old. It is never too early to get involved in helping to create a society that cares for its senior citizens. Very often the present quality of life in society is due to their efforts over the years. It’s time to pay it forward to our elders.
Some Resources to help prevent Elder Abuse
- The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), U.S. Administration on Aging
- The Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
- Quebec – Info-Abuse Line for Elder abuse
- Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (ONPEA)
- Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton
- BC Centre for Elder Advocacy & Support