How Can You Prevent Elder Abuse?
The first post in this series defined various types of elder abuse with an emphasis on financial exploitation. The second post examined why older adults are the frequent targets of financial exploitation as a potential symptom and microcosm of a societal problem: overarching, negative views of aging in America. Now, let’s focus on what we can do to not only prevent incidents of elder abuse, but also what we can do to promote positive views of aging for ourselves, for our communities, and for the next generation.
There’s already a lot happening in the public and private sectors to promote successful aging and affirmative, progressive views of aging. June 3 was Older Michiganian’s Day, an annual event that brings hundreds of people together at the Capitol Building to advocate for older adults. Seniors, service providers, and family members come together to share their voice and concerns about issues affecting older adults with the Legislature.
The day before Older Michiganian’s Day, Governor Snyder delivered a special message on aging at the Older Persons’ Commission in Rochester. Along with Snyder, a panel of older adults and senior service providers, including Elder Law of Michigan President & CEO Keith Morris, shared their concerns, hopes, and personal experiences related to aging.
As I mentioned in the second post in this series, America’s older adult population is aging rapidly. Michigan is no different than the rest of the country in this regard. By 2030, nearly a quarter of Michiganders will be age 60 and older, a phenomenon that AARP State Director Jacqueline Morrison called the age wave or silver tsunami during her remarks on Snyder’s panel. She also said, “No one’s possibilities should be limited by age.” This profound, but simple truth is telling: there is work to be done to improve services, communities, and experiences for older adults. Human beings do not reach a certain age and stop growing. Basic psychology tells us we can continue to grow across our lifespan – whether it’s getting a new hobby, starting a new business, or going on an adventure.
Governor Snyder is attempting, through public-private collaborations in concert with individuals, to better plan to serve Michigan’s growing population of older adults both through service delivery and through age-friendly communities. The governor specifically talked about focusing on four critical areas that will improve the quality of life for older adults in Michigan: living a healthy lifestyle, remaining active and engaged, ensuring financial security during retirement, and retaining independence and choice.This is the type of work that can ultimately change how we collectively conceptualize aging in addition to creating an age-friendly environment that values older adults.
There are also things we can do as individuals to counteract ageism and promote healthy, successful aging for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Perhaps someday, being an older adult will not automatically mean being considered “vulnerable.” Instead, our older members of society will be viewed as esteemed individuals who have gathered a lifetime of wisdom and have the tools to live independently and fruitfully.
- What are the first words that come to mind when you think of “senior?” Examine your ideas about aging and what it means to be a “senior.” Studies show that these views will affect your own experience with aging and growing old. Those with positive views of aging ultimately age well.
- Avoid the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about aging.
- Pass on positive messages about aging and elders to your children and grandchildren. In the second post in this series, I talked about the fourth grade child who completed the Bridges: Growing Older, Growing Together inter-generational program that brings older adults and children together. Remember how dramatically that child’s views of aging and seniors changed after experiencing inter-generational programming? That experience can be replicated easily in our own lives. We can help the next generations to form positive views of aging. It is paramount to create these inter-generational experiences.
- Practice patience in your interactions with all people. We live a beautifully diverse nation. Cultural competency has to be pursued and honed.
When individual incidents of elder abuse occur, there are places to go for help. Governor Snyder shared in his message on aging that his mother had been a victim of financial exploitation by a caregiver who stole her checkbook and wrote fraudulent checks. Elder Law of Michigan’s President & CEO Keith Morris, who served on the panel during the governor’s message, also shed light on elder abuse and financial exploitation and the associated shame for victims that sometimes occurs. He noted that we have all probably been touched by elder abuse whether we realize it not. Many older adults do not report elder abuse – especially when the perpetrator is a family member or caregiver.
Here are some places to go for help if you or your family member has been a victim of elder abuse:
- Elder Law of Michigan’s One Call for Help: 1-866-400-9164
- Department of Human Services (DHS), Adult Protective Services online: www.michigan/gov/dhs
- Statewide 24-hour hotline: 1-855-444-3911
- Bureau of Health Services Abuse Hotline (If you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation of a resident of a nursing home by another resident or by a nursing home employee): 1-800-882-6006
- Attorney General 24-Hour Health Care Fraud Hotline: 1-800-24-ABUSE / 1-800-242-2873
Lindsay Felsing, M.S.W. is the Director of Economic Security at Elder Law of Michigan. She joined Elder Law in 2011 as the Regional Project Manager for MiCAFE, was promoted to Assistant Director in 2012, and then assumed the position of Director in 2013. Through her work at Elder Law, Lindsay has managed over 100 community partners and 200 volunteers across the state of Michigan – including recruitment, training, and education related to the State of Michigan Food Assistance Program.