Elder abuse. Even typing these words causes me pain, but it’s an important topic that has thankfully been brought to light in recent days.
This week, actor Mickey Rooney testified before Congress and the Senate Special Committee on Aging about his experiences as an abused elder and urged them to pass legislation specifically addressing this dark issue.
In Rooney’s case, not even being a Hollywood legend could save him from this sad fate. Two weeks earlier, the beloved 90-year-old actor was granted a restraining order against his stepson and the stepson’s wife, who allegedly withheld food and medication from Rooney and exploited him financially.
He testified that he felt trapped. Scared. Used. Frustrated.
After Mr. Rooney’s moving testimony and the hearing ended, a proposal was introduced that would establish an Office of Elder Justice within the Justice Department.
If this can happen to someone famous, this same fate can befall any of our elders when they are not protected. In fact, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans fall victim to some form of physical, psychological, sexual, financial or other type of abuse or neglect, according to the American Psychological Association. And for every case reported to authorities, an estimated five cases go unreported.
Elder abuse knows no bounds when it comes to race, culture or socioeconomic status. It can occur anywhere – in nursing homes, institutions or even in private homes. The National Center on Elder Abuse. says that the elderly who suffer from dementia are especially vulnerable, as are those who have a substance abuse problem, or are being cared for by someone who does.
If you suspect an older person is being neglected, mistreated or, heaven forbid, abused in any way, I urge you to err on the side of caution and please report this suspected mistreatment to a local protective services agency or ombudsman. To find the number of such an agency, click this link. Of course, if someone is in immediate danger, please call 911.
As always, I am here to offer my support to anyone in need, without judgment. Drop me an email at movingparents[at]bellsouth[dot]net. I’d like to help you and your family reach workable solutions to your problems in caring for your aging parent(s).
All my best,
[Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.]