LANSING - State Representatives Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) and Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) are re-introducing comprehensive legislation to stop the growing crime of elder abuse in Michigan by strengthening consumer protections for seniors and increasing penalties for those who financially exploit them.
“As Michigan residents get older, many have no choice but to depend on others for care, which leaves them vulnerable to abuse and theft,” Brown said. “Michigan must have safeguards in place to ensure that our seniors are protected from these predators both physically and financially. This plan takes on elder abuse head-on by creating tough new penalties that will punish those responsible for these despicable crimes. Protecting our seniors must be a priority, which is why I won’t give up on passing this important legislation.”
The package, which Brown and Barnett also sponsored last legislative session, is part of House Democrats’ ongoing effort to strengthen Michigan’s consumer protection laws.
Elder abuse can include abandonment and neglect, financial exploitation, and emotional, physical or sexual abuse. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the crime is vastly underreported.
The plan addresses the growing problem of elder abuse by:
Increasing penalties for cheating or defrauding seniors, including establishing felony charges for embezzlement and banning abusers from inheriting the estate of their victim.
Empowering concerned citizens to file criminal complaints to stop and prevent abuse in nursing homes and elsewhere.
Strengthening consumer protections by creating new safeguards against fraud and requiring financial institutions to do more to disclose the rights of seniors.
Creating the “Mozelle Alert” to notify the public in cases of missing seniors who are in danger, similar to the Amber Alert. The alert is named in honor of Estella Mozelle Pierce, a senior who died after wandering from her Southwest Detroit home.
“The overlooked crime of elder abuse is simply appalling and, unfortunately, Michigan’s weak laws are unable to protect our seniors from predators,” Barnett said. “Times are tough right now all across Michigan, especially for many of our seniors who are living on fixed incomes. That’s why we must do everything we can to safeguard our loved ones from being swindled out of their life savings.”
To report a suspected case of elder abuse, residents can contact the state’s 24-hour hotline by calling
(800) 99NOABUSE (996-6228).