Elder abuse in the news. Again

Mickey Rooney and wife Jan pose in front of the 60s BatmobileAn article in the Washington’s Post’s Style section this week caught my attention right away.

For one thing, it was a departure from the usual bits about which TV shows and actors are Hot and which are Not. And the gossipy nuggets about who was seen wearing what and dining with whom in The District.

For another, its subject was the appalling, unspeakably cruel, and far too common neglect and abuse of old people in nursing homes and sometimes in their own homes. One well-known example is actor Mickey Rooney shown here with his wife Jan posing in front of the 60’s Batmobile.

The article, “Elder Abuse Activist Lands ‘Genius’ grant,” reported that former Department of Justice lawyer Marie-Therese Connolly had received a MacArthur Foundation grant to pursue her work writing, speaking, and advocating for elderly people who’d been subject to neglect or abuse.


Elder abuse has been in the news before

Over the past few years, I’ve read dozens of articles and newpaper accounts of abuse, neglect, and manipulation of elderly people, including:

*** cases of restaints—used to keep patients in nursing homes from falling out of bed—causing death;

***  inappropriate or over-dosing of nursing home patients with tranquilizers or other medications;

***  financial abuse, as in the case involving Mickey Rooney;

***  even sexual abuse of elderly patients. Ms. Connolly has written about a case of horrendous abuse of a 96-year-old woman, including rape by a family member.

These cases make the news and cause a brief outcry, yet little is done. Ms. Connolley suggests

Perhaps the twin culprits of ageism and denial are to blame.

We need to do more

It’s been estimated that 5 million people are subject to elder abuse every year but that as many as 96% of the cases are unreported. So kudos to Marie-Therese Connolley and the MacArthur Foundation, but others need to speak up as well.

Federal and state statutes and regulations have been enacted over the past 25 years or so to protect the health and safety of people in nursing homes. They were passed for a reason, and they need to be enforced.

What do you think we should do? Should we ask candidates for federal or state office their views on protecting our parents and grandparents and others from elder abuse? Don’t we need to find out whether those who aspire to hold office think that the government should just butt out and let the market sort it all out? Or whether they think that protecting the health and safety of all is a proper role for government?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Madeleine Kolb 07/10/2013, 10:34 am

    Marillyn, The situation you describe is horrendous. Clearly, it’s been very traumatic for you.

    While I think that the matter of elder abuse has received far too little attention and investigation and applaud the work of Marie-Therese Connolly and others, I’m not qualified to offer any specific suggestions to you (or anyone who may be the victim of elder abuse).

    It occurs to me, though, that your resolve to keep fighting is preventing you from finding peace at this stage of your life. Perhaps someone with the training to help you deal with your feelings about these events would be more helpful in the end than an attorney. Just a thought.

  • Marillyn Ball 07/09/2013, 4:48 pm

    This website is my rebuttal to a biography written about my daughter, Carole Litten, who had a distinguished career in military and naval aviation (LinkedIn, etc.) This book contains numerous false allegations about me, and I have more than enough documentation to disprove them – hence the website. I believe her motivation was to increase book sales, even going to such extreme lengths as to exploit her mother. She is aware that I have limited finances and at age 85 is apparently confident that I
    can’t defend myself. I can’t afford an attorney in fact and want to continue with a media campaign, but lack the technological expertise. Now I’m searching for someone with those skills to help and so far, guess what? No one is really interested. I intend to keep fighting, somehow. Any suggestions gratefully received.

  • Madeleine Kolb 09/27/2011, 1:17 pm

    Tess, I don’t know the answer to your question, but you’re probably on the right track. Another possibility is that abuse is one way to hasten the death of a family member with money. Perhaps there are multiple factors at play.

  • Tess The Bold Life 09/27/2011, 1:04 pm

    This is one of the saddest things. I wonder how often it is a family member that does the abusing? And if it’s so were they abused as children? This is another topic but as a shrink that’s where my mind goes. Abuse at anytime or any age is just plain wrong. It always happens with the most vulnerable. Thanks for the work you do.

  • Madeleine Kolb 09/27/2011, 11:58 am

    Cathy, It’s a tricky matter. Based on what I’ve read, neglect and abuse by family members does not occur so often, but when it does it tends to be horrendous. According to Ms. Connelly, abuse within the family may be by a male who’s addicted, mentally incompetent, or dsyfunctional in some way.

    Another tricky thing is that neglect (wherever it occurs) can morph into abuse, if it goes on long enough. An example is failing to treat bed-sores which become worse and worse which leads to skin rotted away to the bone and then to death.

    It must be a relief to know that some bed-and-board homes provide good care and that you’ve found a good one for your mother.

  • Cathy 09/27/2011, 11:15 am

    Hi Madeleine,

    It is a sad situation when elders are abused. Government should certainly do what they can and it is also the responsibility of family members to ensure that their elder family members are well taken care of. When the family is abusing it does get complicated, but offenders should definitely be punished. My mom is in a bed and board home. She has never, to my knowledge been abused. She is in a lovely home and receives good care, but it took effort to find the right situation that worked for her.
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