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Michigan Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Task Force makes stop in Benton Harbor

NOW: Michigan Attorney General’s Elder Abuse Task Force makes stop in Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – The state of Michigan is working to protect vulnerable seniors from getting scammed, neglected or abused.

Thousands of older adults across Michigan are victimized every year, but the state's Elder Abuse Task Force is trying to put a stop to it.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force is working to protect vulnerable seniors, and they’re stopping at each corner of the state to listen.

On Monday, AG Nessel and task force representatives stopped by the Berrien County Conference room in Benton Harbor to ask the public to identify any additional issues that should be addressed.

73 thousand older adults are victims of elder abuse in the state of Michigan, and the abuse is happening locally.

Linda Kaye says she has been abused by her conservator.

“I’m invisible. That I have completely disappeared, and nobody really cares that I have,” said Kaye.

She says despite funds from her pension and social security, her money has been misused.

“My conservator right now hasn’t paid my bills on time, some have gone to collections. Right now, I have absolutely no money,” she said. “I don’t know where my money is, I don’t know what bank it’s in, I haven’t seen a balance. I have no idea.”

Kaye says the abuse goes beyond money.

“My conservator threatened me, to the point I was scared to go back to where I live,” the victim explained.

Linda K. Strohl is The Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan. She says elder abuse is not uncommon throughout the region.

Each day, the organization delivers 400 home-bound meals a day to seniors who cannot cook or shop for themselves.

“Drivers get to know their clients, and they often see situations of neglect and abuse,” said Strohl. “Sometimes that’s someone living in the house and taking social security, sometimes it’s verbal or emotional abuse, sometimes its neglect.”

Monday was the task force’s third stop on the listening tour.

“We want to hear people’s stories. We want to understand what they’re going through,” said Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernsein.

The task force is made up of dozens of organizations. Its members are taking on nine different initiatives, such as requiring certification for professional guardians and developing statutory basic rights for families.

“We want to get as much input as possible before we proceed on these initiatives to make certain that we’re as fully informed as possible moving forward,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

“I think the reason we care so intensely about this, is we want people to be heard,” said Bernsein.

Today Kaye got to use her voice, and she was finally heard.

“I have hope from today, I didn’t have hope before,” said Kaye.

As the Attorney General’s Office works to protect vulnerable seniors, some say more has to be done.

“I applaud the Attorney General’s office for doing this. I think that this issue is greater than the Attorney General’s office because they’re using the legal system, but I think there also has to be a cultural change. Such, that seniors are respected and honored as opposed to being um passed over and thought of as being at the end of their lives,” said Strohl.

If you suspect elder abuse, you can report it by calling 855-444-3911.

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