Mickey Rooney was one of the most successful actors in Hollywood history, but even his success and fame were not enough to protect him from the effects of elder abuse. Rooney was emotionally abused, held captive in his own home, and had $2.8 million siphoned from his estate by his own family. Mickey Rooney’s unfortunate story reminds us that elder abuse is an often hidden problem and that it can affect anyone from the Hollywood elite to our own family, friends or neighbors.
An estimated 5 million elders are abused each year and what’s more, an estimated 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse never get reported. As life expectancies rise and people continue to live longer, it is expected that these numbers will continue to rise. The largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history is upon us, as baby boomers are in the midst of inheriting an estimated $11.6 trillion, making conditions ripe for elder abuse.
Elder abuse can be hard to spot because 90% of the abusers are family members including adult children, spouses, and partners and often the abused elder will seek to protect the abuser. However, if you would like to help curb this growing concern, watch for these red flags of financial elder abuse for your friends, family and neighbors:
• sudden changes in bank account or banking practice;
• isolation from family and friends;
• abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents; and
• unexplained sudden transfers of assets.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of red flags and the presence of a red flag does not automatically mean that a person is being abused—there can, of course, be legitimate reasons behind the red flags. However, if you suspect that someone you know is the victim of elder abuse, you can report it to the adult and long-term care facility maltreatment hotline at 1-800-482-8049.