What Should I Do If I Suspect Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse, a deeply concerning issue, often lurks silently in our society. If you suspect a senior in Michigan is a victim, knowing the proper steps to take is critical. At Bassett Murray Law Group, we are dedicated to guiding you through these challenging situations with empathy and experience.

Recognizing Elder Abuse in Michigan

Recognizing elder abuse is essential for its prevention and intervention, especially in Michigan, where the elderly population is an integral part of the community. Elder abuse can manifest in various forms, and its signs are not always immediately apparent. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of elder abuse and their typical signs:

  1. Physical Abuse:
    1. Signs: Unexplained bruises, fractures, or burns; frequent trips to the emergency room; reluctance to seek medical treatment for injuries; and sudden changes in behavior.
    2. Indicators: The elder might seem fearful or anxious around specific individuals, have unexplained injuries, or wear inappropriate clothing to hide injuries.
  2. Emotional Abuse:
    1. Signs: Unusual changes in behavior or sleep, fear or anxiety, unexplained paranoia, or withdrawal from everyday activities.
    2. Indicators: The elder may avoid eye contact, become withdrawn, exhibit signs of depression or confusion, or might be easily upset.
  3. Financial Exploitation:
    1. Signs: Sudden changes in financial situation, unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, changes in wills or power of attorney, missing personal belongings, and unpaid bills despite having adequate resources.
    2. Indicators: The elder may seem concerned or confused about missing funds or possessions, receive frequent calls from creditors, or be unable to explain new financial arrangements.
  4. Neglect:
    1. Signs: Poor hygiene, unattended medical needs, bedsores, dehydration, malnutrition, and unsanitary living conditions.
    2. Indicators: The elder may be left alone in unsafe situations, may wear dirty clothing, may lack necessary medical aids (like glasses, walkers, or medications), or may be confined to bed without care.

Initial Steps to Take

When you suspect elder abuse, taking initial steps responsibly and sensitively is crucial. Here are two essential actions to consider:

  1. Observe and Document:  Observing and documenting involves keeping a detailed record of any potential signs or incidents of abuse. This might include noting physical injuries (bruises or cuts), behavioral changes (withdrawal or fear), or any unusual financial transactions.
    1. Why It’s Important: Documentation is a vital record that can be used later in investigations or legal proceedings. Accurate and detailed records can help authorities and professionals understand the situation more clearly and take appropriate action.
    2. How to Do It: Keep a dated log of observations, take photographs of physical injuries or living conditions, save financial statements or receipts, and record any other relevant information. Doing this discreetly and safely is essential, ensuring that it does not put the elderly or yourself at risk.
  2. Talk to the Elder:  This step involves having a respectful and gentle conversation with the seniors to understand their experience and perspective. It’s crucial to approach this conversation with sensitivity and without making assumptions.
    1. Why It’s Important: Direct communication can provide insights into the elder’s situation that might not be apparent from observation alone. It also shows the elderly that they are not alone and that someone cares and is willing to help.
    2. How to Do It: Choose a safe and private environment for the conversation. Use open-ended questions to encourage the elderly to express themselves. Listen actively and empathetically. Respecting their autonomy and feelings is vital, even if they are not ready to open up or seek help. Assure them of their safety and confidentiality.

Reporting Suspected Abuse

In Michigan, if you suspect elder abuse, it’s vital to report it:

  • Contact Local Authorities: Call 911 if you believe there’s immediate danger.
  • Adult Protective Services: Report to Michigan’s APS for a thorough investigation.

Michigan law offers robust protections against elder abuse. Understanding these laws helps in advocating for seniors’ rights and safety.

When to Seek Legal Counsel

Seeking legal advice is crucial, especially when dealing with complex cases of financial exploitation or when the elder’s capacity to make decisions is in question.

Preventive Legal Measures

As part of preventive care, consider legal tools like guardianship, powers of attorney, and living wills. These can provide additional layers of protection for vulnerable seniors in Michigan.

Contact Us Bassett Murray Law Group

Elder abuse is a serious concern, but with prompt action and the proper support, it can be addressed effectively. If you’re grappling with a situation involving elder abuse or need legal guidance, reach out to the Bassett Murray Law Group. Our experienced team in Ann Arbor is ready to provide compassionate and professional assistance. Call us at 734-930-9200 or contact us online for a consultation. Together, we can protect the well-being and rights of our elders in Michigan.

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Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942

Petoskey Office
By Appointment only
3319 Lakeside Dr S
Petoskey, MI 49770
Phone: 231-427-2292

    Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
    2045 Hogback Road
    ​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
    Phone: 734-930-9200
    Fax: 734-930-9942