As a society we strive to protect the most vulnerable people in our midst and that includes those on both ends of the age spectrum—the young and old.
In Michigan, June is recognized as Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Awareness Month and last month, state leaders announced a legislative package that would strengthen Michigan’s guardianship and conservatorship laws. The bills would require guardians and conservators to be certified, be trained and follow professional standards. Courts would be required to make findings of fact if a person with priority for appointment, such as a family member, is passed over in favor of a professional guardian or conservator. The legislation also seeks to improve the protections for individuals under a guardianship before a professional guardian may remove them from their home, according to a press release from the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The bills were developed over the past two years by an elder abuse task force consisting of dozens of organizations and more than 100 individuals. Prior to developing proposed reforms for guardians and conservators, the task force created a Vulnerable Adult Incident Report form to be utilized by law enforcement in their investigations of possible elder abuse.
Nessel’s office reports that more than 73,000 older adults are victims of elder abuse which typically encompasses abuse, neglect and exploitation.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, warning signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation run the gamut to include physical, emotional and financial duress—everything from unattended medical needs and withdrawal from normal activities to unpaid bills and missing household items.
While it’s heartening to know that this task force is making strides to protect Michigan’s senior citizens, please know that as ordinary citizens we can do our part too. Suspected elder abuse can be reported by calling 855-444-3911 or filling out a form online at michigan.gov/ag. Elder abuse resources can be accessed by calling 800-24-ABUSE (22873).
Experts say that elder abuse is often unrecognized and unreported. Hopefully the tide is changing and we can do better to address this heartbreaking social problem.