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Elder Abuse: A Hidden Threat

Mickey Rooney II.jpg

Mickey Rooney, once Hollywood's most famous star in the late 1930s and early 1940s with a record-long career, could have been expected to live out his golden years in peace and comfort. Yet Rooney, who died in April of 2014, allegedly fell victim to exploitation of the worst sort: elder abuse. According to his conservator, Los Angeles attorney Michael Augustine, the famed screen actor was subjected to physical assault and elder financial abuse, his income diverted and his funds drained. Moroever, Rooney is said to have suffered serious injuries and reportedly had medications and food withheld from him during the period of his abuse. At his passing, Rooney, previously the biggest name in Tinseltown, had a mere $18,000 left to his name.

Luckily for Rooney, in 2011 he was able to escape the abuse and exploitation his conservator Augustine says were inflicted on him by then-estranged wife Jan Chamberlin Rooney and her son Chris Aber. While Rooney could earn anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000 in annual income a decade before his death, Augustine estimates that an approximate total of $8 million was looted from his financial accounts. Chris Aber denies all charges, meanwhile, and calls his accusers "evil." The actor would then live out his last days in the care of Chamberlin's other son, Mark, and his wife. Just a few years before his death, Rooney went to Capitol Hill and told the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging what happened to him:

I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated...Because of your love for other family members, you might feel hesitant to come forward, but I want to tell you this: You are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of. If elder abuse happened to me, it can happen to anyone. I want you to know you deserve better.

Rooney's message should be taken to heart by all Americans. Too often we overlook what's become a silent epidemic in our nation, one that affects not just senior citizens, but entire families and communities. Elder abuse can happen to anyone, no matter their level of wealth or fame. The simple truth is that predators are on the lookout for potential victims regardless of social status, and the elderly are a prime target. So to keep our loved ones and neighbors safe from elder abuse, we have to be just as vigilant in spotting warning signs and stopping wrongdoers in their tracks.

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