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Rooney's Elder Abuse Fight Remains Big Issue Locally

Created: 04/08/2014 7:54 PM KAALtv.com
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- In the wake of the death of a Hollywood icon, the issue of elder abuse has been to the forefront. Legendary actor Mickey Rooney died this past weekend at age 93. Though he's most known for decades of great films, he's also known for his emotional testimony on the personal issue of elder abuse.

"I'm here today on an issue defending the abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of seniors," said Mickey Rooney during testimony in 2011. After enduring emotional trauma, Rooney decided to take his personal case of elder abuse to a Senate Special Committee on Aging. “Money was stolen from me, stolen, by someone close," said Rooney.

Rooney's stepson and his wife were accused of stealing his money, threatening him, and refusing him basic necessities like food and medicine. "Nine times out of 10, exploitation is done by individuals the vulnerable adults know," said Heather Cherry with Olmsted County Adult Protection. "On a yearly basis we take over 1,500 calls and half of those would be considered adult maltreatment reports," she said.

Since the abuse often comes from family or friends, many times it goes unreported. "Maybe it’s a child who they've raised in the past and who they have really strong feelings for, so it’s very hard for them to report financial abuse," said Arlene Theye with the Southeast Area Agency on Aging.

Laws have been put in place to help with those challenges, in Minnesota for example… "Facilities have reporting laws that if they suspect maltreatment has occurred they have an obligation to call us within 24 hours of knowledge," said Cherry.

Minnesota also passed a law allowing banks or financial agencies to report any suspected dishonesty from people who've been granted power of attorney, like Rooney’s stepson. "In my case, I was eventually and completely stripped of the ability to make even the most basic decisions,” said Rooney during testimony.

The state of Iowa is currently working on a similar law. Senators voted 48-0 to approve a uniform power of attorney act that is expected to provide a detailed description of the powers and responsibilities of persons granted powers of attorney.