County strives to make seniors feel safe, secure

Published 1:11 am Friday, April 11, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS -- Fresh from Adult Protective Services training in Lansing, Cass County Family Independence Agency Supervisor Cindy Underwood said in 2001, 9,300 APS referrals were assigned, opened and investigated in Michigan.
The dinner program, made possible through a grant from the Crime Victim Services Commission and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, focused on Cass County's leading role in the state in addressing elder abuse with the theme "Fulfill the Promise -- Making Seniors Safe, Sound and Secure."
Underwood, wife of Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr., who also served on a panel of speakers along with Probate Judge Susan Dobrich, Det. Kristen Daly of the Cass County Sheriff's Office and Ruth Andrews of the Human Services Coordinating Council, said a victim profile, based on an analysis of referrals, is a female over age 65 who is widowed, lives alone and is usually lonely.
The profile of the exploiter is usually a trusted friend, a relative or a caregiver who is usually male and younger than the victim. He is financially dependent on the victim and may have emotional or mental problems coupled with a serious medical, alcohol or drug problem.
Precautions that can be taken to avoid exploitation include staying social, active, organized and informed.
Sheriff Underwood noted that his office has taken collaboration to help the county's older population to a new level by developing a senior program that includes a satellite COA office staffed by Patty Carlisle.
Some of the programs are fun as well as educational, such as the Senior Academy. Underwood said it also helps alleviate the fear some have of getting law enforcement involved. "Now, I have trouble keeping them from calling me," Underwood joked. "They take ownership of their law enforcement. That's what we want to happen. We want them to call us up front, not on the back end of something that's happened. Programs Patty's going to be working on over this next year with the Council on Aging, we think will make life a lot happier and a lot safer in Cass County for our senior population. I'm glad to see our commissioners here because they play a big part in the things we do because they're our funding source. Thank them before you leave," he said of Terri Kitchen, R-Silver Creek Township, and Minnie Warren, D-Pokagon Township.