Rep. Sharon Tyler: Strengthening protection for the elderlyPublished 9:54pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012
An entire generation of Americans that faced horrible fears and achieved great triumphs, surviving a world war and the Great Depression are being neglected and abused. It’s hard to believe our senior citizens, the people who made these significant sacrifices for our nation and worked hard for decades to build our country, are suffering from abuse. Elder abuse is a serious problem affecting nearly 80,000 senior citizens in Michigan, with only 20 percent of the incidents being reported.
Elder abuse is a problem across the state and right here in Berrien County. Adult Protective Services in Benton Harbor on average receives 38 cases of suspected abuse or neglect monthly. Berrien County’s community organization TRIAD, The Right Information and Direction, aims to reduce the victimization of senior citizens by working with community members to address issues facing older citizens and enforce protocol.
Recently, a package of bills was introduced to the House to help increase the reporting of elder abuse in Michigan and strengthen penalties for those convicted of abuse. These crimes are often committed by family members and can have severe consequences. Senate Bills 454-468 focus on strengthening protection for vulnerable and at-risk senior citizens without overburdening guardians. These measures increase coordination between state and local authorities by developing protocols for investigating vulnerable adult abuse.
The protocol provides information and training for caregivers, service agency employees and law officers on how to increase awareness for, as well as identify and report, incidents of elder abuse. It is based on Berrien County police and first responders who are already taking measures to reduce the number of unreported cases by directing people on what to do in cases of suspected abuse.
State law currently punishes convicted first-degree elder abusers with a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. Increasing penalties for exploiting a vulnerable adult, adding more safeguards for financial transactions and creating an “Amber Alert” for the elderly will further enhance the safety of senior citizens.
Gov. Rick Snyder recently gave his special message on public safety in efforts to further protect children, families and seniors. The senior citizens of Michigan have made contributions that helped shape America into the great nation it is today, and I applaud the governor for urging the House to pass the legislation designed to reduce instances of elder abuse within his plans.
There is also legislation before the Michigan legislature which would protect Michigan’s seniors by prohibiting ballot coaching at residential facilities. This change to state law would be an important step toward safeguarding the elderly and improving the integrity of our elections.
I am pleased the Legislature is continuing to work hard to promote a better quality of life for all of Michigan’s seniors.
I look forward to hearing your comments on these important issues. Please feel free to contact me by calling (888) 373-0078 or emailing email@example.com.
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