by Jeff Paterson
Mickey Rooney is an acting legend. At age 90, he recently appeared before a congressional committee to discuss his experiences with elder abuse. Rooney alleges that a family member withheld food and medicine from him while draining him financially. Rooney's relatives deny his claims, but his testimony has called attention to an important issue. The American Psychological Association estimates that more than two million older Americans fall prey to elder abuse every year.
Elder abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or even financial. It's important for the people in an older person's life to watch for signs of abuse, including personality changes, bruises, scars, broken bones, unusual weight loss, disheveled or dirty personal appearance, unsafe living conditions, unpaid bills, and unauthorized changes in wills or bank accounts. These aren't sure signs of elder abuse - they can also point to dementia, accidental falls or other problems - but they're worth exploring if they turn up.
If you're an older adult, try to keep up regular contact with family and friends so you won't become isolated. Isolation makes you more susceptible, because abusers count on their actions going unnoticed. If you do find yourself being victimized, report it to the authorities or tell someone you trust.
If you're a friend or family member and you suspect elder abuse, you can call one of these numbers:
•In an emergency: 911
•If you suspect abuse in the home: 1-800-342-3009, option #6
•If you suspect mistreatment in a nursing home: 1-888-201-4563
•If you suspect mistreatment in an assisted living facility: 1-866-893-6772
•If you suspect abuse by home care personnel: 1-800-628-5972
This information comes from the National Center on Elder Abuse, which is there to help. NCEA's website (www.ncea.aoa.gov) is filled with helpful information. The Center can be also reached at 1-302-831-3525.
Jeff Paterson is HANCI's communication director. Information about HANCI is available at 285-8224 orwww.hanci.com.