Actor Mickey Rooney has been the alleged victim of elder abuse at the hands of his own stepkids, according to restraining orders filed Monday.
The 90-year-old actor, who, born into vaudeville has had one of the longest careers of any actor, was granted court protection from stepson Chris Aber and his stepdaughter Christina Aber, after he filed a case against them charging verbal, emotional and financial abuse, and for denying him such basic necessities as food and medicine.
The court documents say that both Chris and Christina Aber have been keeping Rooney as "effectively a prisoner in his own home" through the use of threats, intimidation and harassment.
Christ Aber has also been accused of taking control over Rooney's finances, blocking access to his mail and forcing the actor into performances he does not wish to do.
With the assistance of attorneys Bruce Roth and Vivian Thoreen of Holland & Knight LLP, Rooney sought and was granted temporary protection for not only himself but for his wife, Jan Rooney, and his stepson, Mark Rooney, who lives with the actor.
Rooney fears for their safety and is worried Chris and Christina Aber might retaliate in a physically abusive way, or try to kidnap the actor now that the case has been filed, court documents say.
"All I want to do is live a peaceful life, to regain my life and be happy," Rooney wrote in a statement to his fans. "I pray to God each day to protect us, help us endure and guide those other senior citizens who are also suffering."
In addition to two temporary restraining orders granted against Christina and Chris Aber, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Reva Goetz appointed attorney Michael Augustine as temporary conservator of his estate. A hearing on who should take over as permanent conservator of the estate will take place in March, Bruce says.
While elder abuse of this magnitude is relatively rare, geriatric experts say, instances of some kind of abuse and neglect, whether psychological, physical, sexual or financial, are a major concern among aging populations. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans become victims somewhere on the spectrum of abuse.
Debra Greenberg of the Gerontology Division at Montefiore Medical Center in New York says that this kind of "extreme case" has only come across her desk a couple of times. More often than not, elder abuse has to do with unintentional neglect from family members who are ignorant of the proper ways to care for an aging individual.
Self-neglect, which occurs when the elderly fail to follow medical advice or otherwise care of themselves, is a leader in the reporting of elder abuse. Financial abuse, when younger family members misuse the elderly person's assets, follows closely. According to the National Elder Abuse Center study, self- and financial-abuse comprise 21 percent of elder abuse cases.
And abuse has consequences that reach beyond an assault on the quality of life of the elderly: Studies suggest that older people who have been abused tend to die earlier than those who have not been, even in the absence of chronic or life-threatening illness, according to the American Psychological Association.
"If you see abuse of any kind going on, there are people you can turn to," Greenberg says. "If you think this is life and death, obviously call 911, but if it's ongoing, most departments for the aging can get you where you need to go."