Elder abuse task force Michigan’s first in ’97

Published 1:12 am Friday, April 11, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS -- Det. Kristen Daly of the Cass County Sheriff's Office was part of 1997's groundbreaking multi-disciplinary task force effort for Michigan to address elder abuse in a meaningful way.
The task force teamed the Prosecutor's Office, Family Independence Agency, the Sheriff's Office, Probate Court, Guardianships and Alternatives, Woodlands Behavioral Healthcare System and the Human Services Coordinating Council for monthly meetings and development of a protocol.
Such collaboration is "a very good tool for staying on top of things," Daly said Thursday.
Daly joined the Sheriff's Office seven years ago as a community policing officer in Jefferson Township. She was promoted to detective four years ago and deals with all felony crimes in Cass County, specializing in dealing with child and older adult victims.
She actually came to Cass County in 1993 to work for Probate Court as a juvenile probation officer.
To prevent fraud, "You've got to know where your money is," she said. "You've got to know where it's going. You've got to find someone you trust. If you get to the point where you're not comfortable knowing where all the money is going, I've had victims who have been taken advantage of by complete strangers, by acquaintances and family members. There's really no one thing a person can do to be completely safe from not being taken advantage of."
Basically, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Daly said. "If someone comes to your home and offers to asphalt your driveway, fix your roof or replace the fasching around the chimney, if you don't think you need for something, you need to go out and get references. Somebody knocking on your door, claiming they're going to repair something, is one way I've had a couple of people defrauded. They paint silver as opposed to replacing metal fasching. Things like that."
Daly said, "I had somebody who trusted an individual who came into their home every day and helped them out. They gave them their checkbook and were unaware. Their bills got paid every month, but when it was all over, they didn't have a nest egg anymore, either. There are agencies in place to help with that. I work with Guardianships and Alternatives, through conservatorships through Probate Court, to help people control their money and figure out where things are going. It's great because then there is a third party watching over things so money goes where it's supposed to and not in someone's pocket."
A change in the law in September 2001 provided "that anybody who is a caregiver of an older adult who received an 'unjust enrichment' is liable for that and can be prosecuted," Daly said. "I was running into a lot of people who got bogus power of attorneys or the elderly person loved this person and didn't care what they did with their money if they had them. You hear a lot of, 'I want them to enjoy it while I'm around to watch them,' but then when you talk to them a little bit about, 'How much do you think they're enjoying your money?' they don't really understand. I'm all for everyone knowing where their money is going and saying, 'Hey, it's my money, it's my business.' I had an older man tell me that one time. His daughter didn't like how he was spending his money. We went out and talked to him and he very clearly knew where his money was going and didn't think it was any of his daughter's business or any of our business. I'm all for that."
There are a couple of things citizens can do to bolster their personal safety, she said.
The Sheriff's Office as well as the Dowagiac Police Department offer "safety surveys."