Mickey Rooney Elder Abuse: Could It Happen to You?

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 12:42 PM

By Charlotte Libov

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When Mickey Rooney died this week at 93, he left a legacy that goes beyond his incomparable acting career. In his later years he disclosed that he was a victim of elder abuse and he fought to help others who had suffered.
 
The experience hurt him so deeply that he testified in front of  Congress, determined to raise awareness about the issue.
 
"My money was taken and misused,” Rooney told senators. “When I asked for information, I was told that I couldn't have any of my own information. I was literally left powerless.
 
“Over the course of time, my daily life became unbearable,” he said. “I felt trapped scared, used, and frustrated. But above all, I felt helpless.”
 
Rooney filed a lawsuit against his stepson and his stepson’s wife in 2011, alleging the couple stole his money and refused him basic necessities like food and medicine. In October 2013, Rooney’s conservator agreed to a $2.8 million stipulated judgment against the couple.  
 
“If elder abuse happened to me, Mickey Rooney, it can happen to anyone,” the star said during his congressional testimony in 2011.
 
Editor’s Note: Nursing Home Nightmare, 3 Ways to Live In Your Home Forever

Dr. Martha Corvea, a clinical psychologist who works with the elderly, says that by  publicizing the scourge of elder abuse, Rooney did a service to millions of elderly.
 
“Elder abuse happens every day, and can happen to anyone,” said Dr. Corvea, who works in the Miami VA Healthcare System. “Often people see it, but no one interferes because it is viewed as a family matter, not a community problem.”
 
Studies show that one in10 elderly Americans suffer from some kind of elder mistreatment, abuse, or neglect that does not include financial abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
 
Financial abuse happens to about 4 percent of seniors and costs its victims $2.9 billion a year, according to the center.
 
“Most of the abuse or mistreatment of the elderly is initiated by the person who is closest, which can be an adult child,” Dr. Corvea told Newsmax Health. “There is reluctance on the part of outsiders, or even other family member to intervene, even if they suspect what is going on.”
 
Elder abuse cuts across all socio-economic lines, she said. “It doesn’t necessarily happen in poor communities. It can happen in wealthy ones as well,” Dr. Corvea noted. 
 
The elderly are particularly vulnerable because they often have no way to report the abuse, or even summon help.
 
“How is an elderly person going to report what is happening, if they are being abused by the person who feeds them and gets them out of bed? It is heartbreaking, but the one thing that I have always found that really reduces the reporting to zero is the psychological threat that hangs over them.
 
“The abuser threatens the elderly person, telling them, ‘If you say something, I am going to put you in a nursing home.’ The fear of being put out of their home, no matter how bad things are, is enough to keep them from telling anyone,” Dr. Corvea said.
 
Dr. Corvea says abuse may be occurring when an elderly person:  
 
  • Has bruises or injuries that are hastily dismissed by a caretaker with a difficult-to-believe explanation.
  • Has been in and out of the hospital without a legitimate explanation.
  • Always appears unkempt or is dressed in ragged clothing.
  • Is kept away from visitors or barred from interacting with others.
  • Is often heard shouting or the caretaker is heard shouting at the elderly person.
Above all, if you suspect elder abuse, don't hesitate to report it, say Dr. Corvea.

“Most states have elder abuse hotlines. Or call 911 or the police. Too often, people are reluctant because they are afraid they will make the situation worse, but police and other agencies have trained people to handle such matters,” she said.
 
After Rooney’s death, his will was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. Despite his decades of stardom, his estate was valued at only $18,000.  

Editor’s Note: Nursing Home Nightmare, 3 Ways to Live In Your Home Forever


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