Legislation combats eldery abuse in Michigan

By George Darany
Thank you to everyone who has contacted my office to share their thoughts and concerns during my first term in the Michigan House of Representatives. Recently, a large number of residents have called my office to support the Elder Abuse Prevention package of bills (SB 454-SB 468) currently moving through the Legislature. The bills have come over from the Senate and are currently under consideration by the House.

As we get older, we often have to rely on others for help and assistance. We may need help with finances or help with transportation to a doctor’s appointment. We may need care and support in a retirement community, or a family member to depend on to help complete daily tasks. We are lucky to have so many wonderful advocacy groups in Wayne County and across the state that do such important work and offer vital services to our seniors. It is nice to have people we can count on and trust.

Unfortunately, thousands of seniors each year suffer abuse at the hands of those who they thought they could trust to care for them. Elder abuse can include abandonment and neglect, financial exploitation, and emotional or physical abuse — and while crimes against seniors are vastly underreported, the danger is very real.

Earlier this legislative session, my colleagues and I introduced a comprehensive legislative package to combat elder abuse in Michigan, House Bills 4327 through House Bill 4344. This package has served as a model for the Senate bills now moving through the Legislature. My bill, HB 4338, creates a statewide protocol for investigating cases of elder abuse. Other bills in the package strengthen consumer protections for seniors and increase penalties for those who financially exploit them.

The package of bills will crack down on elder abuse by:

• Increasing penalties for cheating or defrauding seniors, including establishing felony charges for embezzlement and banning abusers from inheriting the estate of their victim.

• Empowering concerned citizens to file criminal complaints to stop and prevent abuse cases in nursing homes and elsewhere.

• Strengthening consumer protections by creating new safeguards against fraud and requiring financial institutions to do more to disclose the rights of seniors.

• Creating the “Mozelle Alert,” an alert mechanism to notify the public in cases of missing and or endangered seniors, similar to the Amber Alert.

We need to strengthen existing laws in order to keep our seniors safe and help prevent elder abuse. I have mentioned before that politics often come into play when passing legislation. Regardless of who, which chamber, or which political party sponsors the legislation, I support laws that provide real protections for some of our state’s most vulnerable residents and partisan politics has no place in efforts to protect our seniors.

With crimes against seniors on the rise, I feel it is important to share some resources that may be useful. If you are a senior looking for assistance, or know of a loved one in need of help, please contact the Area Agency on Aging 1C, Senior Alliance, toll free at 800-815-1112, or go to its website at www.aaa1c.org/. Additionally, Elder Law of Michigan provides free legal assistance for seniors at 800-347-5297. They also have an excellent on-line publication called Advancing Smartly, a legal handbook for Michigan seniors at www.legalhotlines.org/elm/advancingsmartly/index.html.

Please be assured that I will continue to fight for laws that protect our seniors. It’s our duty to make sure those who given so much to our society throughout the years are protected from harm and exploitation. We have to make sure our seniors are safeguarded from all types of abuse, whether it’s physical, financial or emotional.

I will continue working with my legislative colleagues to pass a plan that gives our seniors the strong protections they deserve, to raise awareness, and to send a clear message that we will not tolerate the mistreatment of our seniors here in Michigan.

To report a suspected case of elder abuse, residents can contact the state’s 24-hour hotline by calling 800-99NOABUSE / 800 996-6228.

(State Rep. George Darany represents the 15th House District. To contact him, call 855-775-1515 or email him at georgetdarany@house.mi.gov. To sign up for his e-newsletter, visit his website, house.mi.gov/gdarany.)