It is important that we recognize elder abuse as a serious problem in the state of Michigan. It occurs in many different forms and is often committed by the people you least expect. It could be a close family member who exploits an aging loved one for money in the privacy of their own home, or a caregiver in an assisted living facility who takes out their aggression on patients.
According to the Department of Justice, the most common forms of elder abuse are financial exploitation, neglect and psychological abuse.
At least 73,000 older adults in Michigan have experienced some form of abuse. And that number could be even higher because elder abuse – much like domestic violence – is believed to be severely underreported. Many seniors suffer in silence because they are too scared or ashamed to speak up. Signs of abuse can also be hard to spot, which often means mistreatment goes unrecognized.
This is an issue I became quite familiar with through my work as an assistant attorney general, and I’m pleased to have an opportunity to continue addressing the problem as a legislator and a member of the Elder Abuse Task Force.
Earlier this year, I introduced legislation as part of a bipartisan plan to combat elder abuse and establish increased protections for Michigan’s senior population. The eight-bill package will add legal protections for adults age 65 and older and increase criminal penalties for individuals who financially or physically abuse elder adults. These additional protections and increased criminal penalties will ensure people think twice before targeting or taking advantage of our seniors.
The Elder Abuse Task Force is looking to expand on this effort even further. We’re taking a close look at a wide variety of issues, including protecting vulnerable adults from undue influence, increasing maximum penalties for abusers, and creating a special prosecutor for elder abuse.
As part of my commitment to supporting the elder members of our community, I am hosting an informational event for seniors Sept. 30 at noon at Clinton Commons in St. Johns. We will provide information regarding their legal rights, wills and trusts, and community resources available to seniors. I encourage you to save the date.
I’m committed to strengthening protections for Michigan seniors through meaningful policy reforms. In the meantime, we can all play a role in keeping our seniors safe by watching for signs of elder abuse. Anonymous tips can be made by calling the Michigan elder abuse hotline at 855-444-3911.
State Rep. Graham Filler of DeWitt is serving his first term in the Michigan House representing residents of Clinton and Gratiot counties. A former assistant attorney general, he now serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee.