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Elder Abuse in and outside of Hollywood

MARGARET M. STOCKDALE

Elder abuse is defined as intentional acts that result in harm or risk of harm to an elderly person by someone they trust, such as a caregiver. The abuse can involve acts committed by the abuser or intentional omissions, such as neglect. Individuals across all socio-economic classes, races, and ethnicities can be victims. The abuse can occur in a home setting or in an institution.

One recent case of elder abuse comes straight out of Hollywood. Comic book legend, Stan Lee was the victim. Lee is known for his work as primary creative leader at Marvel Comics for two decades.

In 2017, Lee’s wife, Joan, passed away leaving Lee’s personal life and well-being in shambles. In addition to his heartbreak, Lee was suffering from dementia. During the time following the death of his wife, and towards the end of his life, Lee became rather close with former business manager and caretaker, Keya Morgan who was a memorabilia collector.

In May of 2018, social workers and police were called to Lee’s home for a welfare check. During that check Morgan called 911 claiming that the officers were trespassing. As a result, Morgan was arrested for filing a false police report.

Immediately following this incident, Lee’s attorney sought a restraining order against Morgan for allegedly embezzling artwork, money and other assets in excess of $5 million, as well as exerting undue influence and isolating Lee from his family and friends. This restraining order was granted in June of 2018 and renewed in August of 2018.

Unfortunately, Lee passed away on Nov. 12, 2018 from pre-existing medical conditions.

On May 10, 2019, the Los Angeles Superior Court charged Morgan with multiple counts of elder abuse, including forgery, fraud, and false imprisonment. Morgan was arrested in Arizona, on an outstanding arrest warrant that was issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

While you, or your loved one, may not be as famous as comic book legend Stan Lee, you too can fall victim to elder abuse. Elder abuse comes in various forms, many of which are hard to identify as they are happening.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), about 1 in 10 Americans, over the age of 60, have experienced some form of elder abuse. Of these events, only about 7 percent come to the attention of local or state authorities.

Why is elder abuse not getting reported? Many signs of elder abuse go undetected because countless physicians are not properly trained to identify them. Additionally, elderly individuals are often reluctant to report such abuse because they fear hurting those around them and losing caretakers.

In 60 percent of the cases, the perpetrator is a family member. Two-thirds of these are either adult children or spouses.

Due to the prevalence of elder abuse, you can never be too safe. Make sure you have open and honest conversations with your aging loved ones about the potential for abuse, whether it is physical, emotional, verbal, or financial.

For more information on elder abuse and how to get help, please visit https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/elder-justice/elder-abuse-facts/.

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Margaret Stockdale is an attorney with Marshall, Parker & Weber LLC, an elder law and estate planning firm in Williamsport.

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