Elder abuse is a grave concern that demands our attention. On October 9, 2023, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, in partnership with the Elder Abuse Task Force (EATF), took significant steps to address this pressing issue. The Department of Attorney General has launched an updated webform to facilitate the reporting of suspected incidents of elder abuse, patient abuse, and exploitation, reaffirming their commitment to protecting the state’s elderly and vulnerable populations.
Attorney General Nessel, who initiated the Elder Abuse Task Force in 2019, stated, “I created the Elder Abuse Task Force in 2019 to bring together a comprehensive group of experts to ensure our elderly and vulnerable populations are protected from abuse. Part of that work is ensuring the tools we provide to the public, like this form, are accessible, easy to complete, and up to date.”
The newly updated reporting form includes sections to identify crucial information such as:
- The person being abused or in need of assistance.
- The person alleged to be responsible for the abuse.
- Whether the abuse has been previously reported to other agencies.
- Details of the abuse.
Once submitted, these complaints will be thoroughly investigated by either the Department’s Financial Crimes Division or Health Care Fraud Division, depending on the specifics of the allegation.
The Financial Crimes Division, led by Assistant Attorney General Scott Teter, also heads the EATF. On the other hand, the Health Care Fraud Division, led by Assistant Attorney General David Tanay, oversees the Department’s Sentinel Project, a vital initiative launched in 2021.
The Sentinel Project employs specially trained staff to conduct unannounced visits to long-term care facilities, seeking evidence of abuse or neglect. These visits are determined based on performance metrics, complaints, and other data, with the ultimate goal of eliminating instances of substandard care. Attorney General Nessel affirmed, “The Department of Attorney General is dedicated to detecting and addressing any neglect or abuse of loved ones residing at home or in long-term care facilities. Instances of substandard care must be eliminated, and The Sentinel Project helps accomplish that goal.”
Furthermore, the Sentinel Project Team recently met with Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson and other county leaders to discuss collaborative efforts between state and county law enforcement agencies to enhance training and investigation procedures concerning elder abuse in long-term care facilities. To this end, the Sentinel Project is launching a series of law enforcement trainings across the state, commencing on Thursday, October 12th in Ingham County.
Attorney General Nessel and the EATF are also working closely with the legislature to strengthen safeguards for the elderly through a series of proposed bills. These bills, including House Bills 4909-4912 and 5047, aim to:
- Ensure family members willing to serve as guardians receive due consideration.
- Require guardian and conservator certification and visitation frequency.
- Set standards for the Guardian ad Litem report to the court.
- Safeguard personal items of sentimental value from being discarded.
- Establish a right to an attorney throughout the proceedings.
- Implement additional protections before removing individuals from their homes.
- Improve the basic standard for medical testimony.
- Create an Office of State Guardian to oversee and certify guardians, among other provisions.
The Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force, which began its journey in 2019, comprises more than 55 different organizations and over 100 individuals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, all dedicated to combating elder abuse. Their achievements include the adoption of a Vulnerable Adult Incident Report form for statewide law enforcement investigation, along with the implementation of related training programs. In 2021, the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act was signed into law, mandating reporting by financial institutions on suspected fraud or exploitation.
It’s estimated that over 100,000 older adults in Michigan fall victim to elder abuse, with less than half of these cases reported to authorities. To encourage reporting and provide resources to those in need, Michigan residents are urged to call 800-24-ABUSE (22873) or 855-444-3911 to report suspected elder abuse.
The launch of the updated reporting form and the continued efforts of Attorney General Nessel, the Elder Abuse Task Force, and state law enforcement agencies underscore Michigan’s AG’s unwavering commitment to protecting its elderly population from abuse and exploitation, ensuring that our seniors can age with dignity and safety.