Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, State Representative Sarah Cambensy, Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh, and the rest of the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force hosted the final Elder Abuse Town Hall at Northern Michigan University’s campus Aug. 12, 2019. The final stop of the Elder Abuse Task Force covered a variety of topics, including communicating rights to elderly citizens and financial abuse through guardianship abuse.
Attorney General Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force consists of over 80 individuals from over 50 organizations operating in Michigan including Meals on Wheels and the Region IV Agency on Aging representatives from Berrien, Cass, and VanBuren counties. The Elder Abuse Task Force tour was used as a fact-finding event seeking to gather input from elderly residents and propose solutions to guardianship abuse.
The tour was inspired when Nessel stated that she had seen petitions for guardianships for elderly citizens “decided in less time, with less testimony or deliberation, that a traffic ticket” and the data that has been gathered will now be used to shape actions by the attorney general’s office in stopping elder abuse.
According to the Attorney General’s office, 73,000 Michigan residents a year become victims of elder abuse. According to Attorney General Nessel, a significant amount of elder abuse is related to abuses of guardianship. Nessel has said that some guardians have as many as 500 clients.
Nessel’s opinion has been echoed by other members of the Elder Abuse Task Force. One attorney who attended the town hall, Paul Strobel, told Michigan TV 6 reporters “There will come a point where most guardianships of the elderly are deemed as crimes against humanity.”
Lori Stephens-Brown, member of the Community Action Alger-Marquette community told reporters that the number of guardianship abuses is likely underreported. “It’s difficult to find, to identify guardians, and it’s more of a volunteer position, . . . [Elders] are so desperate for help and for company they are going to put up with those things,” Brown explained.
While the Elder Abuse Task Force has taken aim at the shortcomings of guardianship, health officials told sources that this information is not the revelation that some may consider it. While officials say it is important to find proper guardians for elder residents who may need one, timeliness is also important because “[hospitals] aren’t going to send them home” and without nursing homes, elders are left with few options.
With Attorney General Nessel’s discovery finished, hopefully the attorney general’s office will work with lawmakers to not only prosecute abusive guardians but actively work to create legislation to screen for responsible guardians to gain the awesome responsibility that comes with guardianship.
For more information about financial exploitation of elders through systems like guardianship, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Financial Abuse Page.