Maya Angelou was an inspiring poet whose words sang the hard truths of her life but still shone a light on the joy she unearthed no matter what circumstances she endured. Dr. Angelou’s talent and inspiration left us in 2014, leaving a body of work that is required reading for English majors, aspiring writers, and Oprah fans everywhere. Unfortunately, she leaves behind a legacy marred by allegations of elder abuse and fraud.
Dr. Angelou had a living trust and through her estate plan, she left her interest in her intellectual property to her son and grandson. And here’s where the problems begin. Dr. Angelou’s son has filed suit in Alameda County Court this week alleging, among other things, elder abuse against Dr. Angelou’s grandson. Elder abuse is serious and an all too common phenomenon where those close to an elderly person misuse their position for personal gain to the detriment of the elder. Elder abuse can be physical or financial or both. (You can read the details in the Welfare & Institutions Code and the California Penal Code, if you need reading material before bed.)
Dr. Angelou’s son, who is permanently disabled and confined to a wheelchair, has been granted a five year elder abuse restraining order against his own son. An application for a restraining order is a solid first step towards protecting vulnerable elders. Anyone who suspects elder abuse can report this to their county Adult Protective Services division or their local law enforcement. You don’t have to be related to the elder to report suspected abuse. You just need to be vigilant and willing to share your concerns with the authorities.
Elder abuse is a wide-spread but hidden problem. Most cases of elder abuse go unreported and the abuse is often never discovered or discovered too late. California law contains remedies for elder abuse – but you need to report what you see to get the process started. Dr. Angelou’s son will be protected from further abuse due to the restraining order granted by the court and hopefully his finances will recover after his lawsuit is tried or settled.
Start the process now if you believe you or someone you love is being abused. As Dr. Angelou said, ‘Once you know better, do better.’ Now you know.