The star, who is 90 years old now, was abused by a family member who yelled at him, threatened him and intimidated him, according to court papers. Now he is speaking out about his experiences to the Senate Aging Committee. He hopes to raise awareness and help others.
So much time and attention is paid to child abuse: how to prevent it, how to recognize signs of it, how to protect vulnerable children from becoming victims and how to help kids who’ve been abused.
As Mickey Rooney’s elder abuse story makes clear, the same kind of focus will need to be brought to protecting and caring for our aging parents as we grow older.
As parents with young kids, most of us probably put all our energy into meeting our kids needs. Grandparents, if we’re lucky, are a source of support, love and holiday gifts. My parents still help and nurture me as I navigate the challenges of parenting.
Eventually that balance shifts though. Increasingly, my mother is caring for her mom, not the other way around. Some of my friends are caring for their elderly parents, helping them get medical care and arranging their living situations. A few even have their parents living with them.
The responsibility to be a loving, trustworthy, safe caregiver is just as great when it’s your mom you’re taking care of as it is when it’s your kid. We need the same level of vigilance and oversight for the caregivers who help us with this task: the nurses and health aids and assisted living staffers who might come into our parents lives.
Like day care teachers and pediatric nurses, these people have positions of power and trust in our loved ones lives. Most of them are caring professionals, just as most adult children are loving caretakers for their elderly parents.
But elder abuse does happen, just like child abuse does happen. Talking about it lifts a shadow and gives victims a chance to speak out. It also helps all of us raise our awareness so we can be alert to protecting the vulnerable elderly in our lives, just as we look after our vulnerable children.