Today, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we come together to shed light on a critical issue that affects our seniors in unimaginable ways. Elder abuse is a heartbreaking reality for one in ten individuals aged sixty or older, and here in Michigan, the numbers are staggering. It is estimated that more than 73,000 older adults in our state are victims of elder abuse, enduring abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This silent epidemic demands our attention and calls for a concerted effort to tackle this often unrecognized and unreported social problem.
As an elder law attorney, I am deeply committed to protecting the rights and well-being of our cherished elders. One of the most significant threats they face is financial exploitation, which results in an alarming national annual loss of $36.5 billion. This injustice cannot be ignored, and it is crucial for all of us to educate ourselves and take action against elder abuse.
Recognizing the signs of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation is essential in our collective effort to protect our seniors. The National Center on Elder Abuse has outlined several warning signs that we should all be aware of:
- Dehydration or unusual weight loss
- Missing medication or medical assistive devices
- Unexplained injuries or sores
- Unsanitary living conditions or poor hygiene
- Unattended medical needs or missed appointments
- Unusual changes in behavior or sleep patterns
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Isolation from friends or family
- Increased anxiety or fear
- Hesitance to speak in the presence of a "caregiver"
- Unpaid bills (elder adult receives foreclosure warnings, electricity is shut off)
- Unusual changes in spending patterns (increases in ATM withdrawals, checks made out to cash, or written out of order)
- Missing household items (cherished heirlooms, expensive tools, or other valuable items)
- Unexpected changes in wills or property deeds (property deeded/will changed to benefit a "new friend")
- Purchase of large items the elder adult does not use (vehicles when the adult does not drive, timeshare purchases when the adult is homebound)
By being vigilant and recognizing these signs, we can intervene and protect our vulnerable elders from further harm. It is our duty as a community to report any suspicions of elder abuse and provide support to those in need.
If you suspect elder abuse or have any concerns about the well-being of an elderly individual, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. The 24/7 Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Adult Protective Services statewide hotline is available to provide assistance and guidance. You can contact them at (855) 444-3911.
Remember, our elders deserve dignity, respect, and protection. They have contributed so much to society, and it is our responsibility to safeguard their well-being. Let us stand together against elder abuse, today and every day.
Michigan Department of Attorney General: www.michigan.gov/ag/initiatives/elder-abuse
National Center on Elder Abuse: https://ncea.acl.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov