Irwin Leads Effort to Strengthen Protections for Michigan Seniors

Legislation takes aim at preventing elder abuse, financial exploitation
Monday, February 28, 2011

LANSING – State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) is sponsoring comprehensive legislation to combat the reprehensible practice of elder abuse in Michigan by strengthening consumer protections for seniors and increasing penalties for those who financially exploit them.

“Seniors shouldn’t have to worry about the person they’re trusting to care for them selling their house right out from under them,” Irwin said. “Elder abuse is a growing problem, but unfortunately Michigan law doesn’t offer the protections our seniors deserve as they age. People who would stoop as low as to dupe vulnerable seniors out of their property, home and money must be held accountable and this plan will ensure that happens.”

The legislative package 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 seeks to address 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 cases 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,” an alert mechanism to notify the public in cases of missing endangered seniors, 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.

To report a suspected case of elder abuse, residents can contact the state’s 24-hour hotline by calling (800) 99NOABUSE (996-6228).