Einstein/Montefiore Department of Medicine

Elder Abuse

Rooney's Appeal a Reminder for Elders and Their Providers

Karin-Elizabeth Ouchida, MD


Image: Karin-Elizabeth Ouchida, MD

March 9, 2011 - Mickey Rooney's recent appeal to Congress to crack down on elder abuse is a reminder that this issue affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. It is extremely sad that Mr. Rooney, a lifelong performer with a decorated career, was made to feel helpless and afraid. Hopefully his public testimony will increase the public's awareness of elder mistreatment and specifically highlight the fact that this issue is not limited to physical abuse.

Several things need to occur to decrease the incidence of elder abuse and neglect, as well as to effectively treat those who have already been victimized. On the prevention side, all medical providers who interact with elderly people need to be trained to identify those most at risk and refer them to social and medical services to diminish their vulnerability. This may be as simple as getting someone who has mild cognitive impairment to name a health care proxy or a power of attorney, or referring a patient for home health care so that more eyes and ears can monitor the situation at home and the victim is less dependent on the potential abuser. 

On the treatment side, we need more resources devoted to establishing coordinated systems of social and medical care. Currently elder mistreatment victims can easily get lost in the system. They may receive treatment at multiple hospitals and clinics, and be known to Adult Protective Services, with none of these sites of care knowing about the other.

Many of the conditions that put people at risk for mistreatment or are exacerbated by mistreatment (cognitive impairment, depression or anxiety, poor functional status) can be addressed and potentially treated. Victims of elder mistreatment should tell their doctors so that they can receive appropriate medical care.

For more information and resources for elders, caregivers, and doctors, see When Simple Interventions Can Save Lives.

Dr. Ouchida is an Assistant Professor of Medicine (Geriatrics), Co-director of the Montefiore Geriatrics Home Visiting Program, and founder of the Elder Abuse and Neglect Consultation Service.

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