Standing Together Against Elder Abuse: A Comprehensive Guide for Michigan Residents
As we at the Bassett Murray Law Group in Ann Arbor, MI, approach World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th, we feel compelled to address this critical issue. Elder abuse is an alarming, yet often overlooked problem. To make a meaningful change, we must raise awareness, provide information, and urge our community to protect our esteemed seniors.
Understanding Elder Abuse in Michigan
Elder abuse is a tragically prevalent issue that can occur in many forms, including physical, emotional, and financial exploitation. Sometimes the exploitation comes from internet or phone contact. Far too often, however, the abuser is someone the elder trusts—a family member, caregiver, or close friend. Unchecked, this abuse can lead to severe physical and psychological trauma. Exploitation can deprive the elder of resources critical to their health and comfort as they age. Preventing, identifying, and reporting abuse and exploitation ensures our elders are safe, respected, and cared for.
Recognizing the Signs of Elder Abuse
Combatting elder abuse begins with recognition. Be attentive to signs such as sudden changes in behavior, unexplained injuries, unexpected financial issues, transactions out of the ordinary for the senior, or neglect evidenced by poor hygiene, weight loss, or unsanitary living conditions. If something seems off, it may be time to investigate further and provide the necessary support.
Elder Abuse Law in Michigan
In Michigan, specific laws safeguard our older citizens from such abuse. Anyone who suspects elder abuse is encouraged, some are even required, to report it to the Department of Health and Human Services – Adult Protective Services, Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Task Force, or local law enforcement. These allegations deserve to be treated swiftly and seriously by imposing strict penalties on those found guilty of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
How it Happens
Isolation is the single largest risk factor in elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Often the first step a perpetrator takes is to isolate the victim from family members, community, and others in a position to identify a problem. Loneliness can cause a person to be susceptible to exploitation through phone calls and internet contact. When the phone rings, it may be the only human contact the elder has had in days.
Fear for the safety of loved ones or an appeal to the elder’s need to feel useful leads to such scams as – “Hi Grandma. Don’t tell my parents, but I was traveling in [foreign country here] and have been arrested. I needs $5,000 quickly or I don’t know what they will do to me.” OR “This is the SEC. There is a hacker working at [your brokerage]. Your money and the funds of many other people are at risk. We need your help figuring out who this person is so that we can stop them. We can’t trust anyone at [your brokerage], and so we need you to go in and wire transfer money into the SEC so we can track the transaction. Will you help?”
Many times, elders do not want to report an abuse, neglect, or exploitation problem because they are embarrassed they were tricked or they feel they are at fault. Other times, they don’t want to get a family member into trouble. Sometimes they have no way of reporting the abuse or neglect because their isolation is so pervasive. If they do not have or do not know how to use a phone, they have no one from the outside world coming to their house for any reason, and they have no way to leave or no cognitive ability to formulate and carry out a plan. In those situations, the elder themself is powerless to summon help.
Prevention and Action: Protecting Your Loved Ones
Prevention is the best form of protection against elder abuse. Building strong social networks for older adults can help prevent isolation. Regular check-ins and open conversations about personal and financial matters are equally important. Likewise, the network of the caregiver can sometimes be a lifeline to an abused, neglected or exploited elder. Caregiving can be an emotionally draining task. Emotional exhaustion can lead to resentment that can cross the line to abuse or justification for taking money. Letting the caregiver know there are options could just keep a bad situation from getting worse.
In some circumstances, legal interventions, like appointing a guardian or conservator, may be necessary. Legal documents such as powers of attorney, living wills, or health care directives can safeguard an elder’s interests, providing clear guidelines for their care and finances. These steps ensure that decisions are made in the elder’s best interest, preventing potential exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
Bassett Murray Law Group: Your Ally in Elder Care
At Bassett Murray Law Group, we’re committed to safeguarding the rights and dignity of older adults in our community. Our extensive experience in elder law equips us to offer insightful counsel on preventive measures and to take action if abuse is suspected.
This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, let’s stand united in our commitment to protect our elders. Together, we can ensure vulnerable adults have the security of the savings they have worked for and the care and respect they deserve.
If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one, seeking advice about planning for your own later years, or need assistance with Veterans Benefits, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Let the Bassett Murray Law Group in Ann Arbor, MI, be your trusted partner in elder care. Visit our website at www.bassettmurray.com for more information or to schedule a consultation. Let’s take a stand together against elder abuse, because everyone deserves respect and care in their later years.