Catholic Charities nabs grant to expand elder abuse prevention efforts

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With the growing number of older adults being a victim of elder abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, both Livingston County Catholic Charities (LCCC) and the Community Foundation for Livingston County have made it a priority focus area. The Community Foundation for Livingston County has awarded LCCC a grant of $26,766 to expand their elder abuse prevention efforts in Livingston County.

In recent years, LCCC staff has been seeing a growing number of seniors who were neglected, falling prey to scams or experiencing financial abuse as well as physical, emotional, mental and other forms of exploitation. According to LCCC Director of Senior Services, “at that time there were no efforts in our county to raise awareness and educate both our seniors and those who work with the senior population.” So LCCC, through a small grant funded through Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA1-B) received in 2017, instituted a new program – Prevention of Elder Abuse Neglect and Exploitation (P.E.A.N.E.) for the purpose of educating and raising awareness of this increasing issue and of the appropriate responses to take.

The Michigan Dept. of Attorney General provides the following definition of Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation: “Elder and vulnerable adult abuse, neglect and exploitation are behaviors committed against an elder or vulnerable adult who is unable to protect himself or herself due to a mental or physical impairment or due to advanced age.”

• Abuse is harm or threatened harm to an adult’s health or welfare caused by another person.

• Neglect is the inability or failure of the adult, or an individual responsible for the care of the elder or vulnerable adult, to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.

• Exploitation is the misuse of an adult’s funds, property or personal dignity by another person.

• Part of the project design was to create a community coalition. Livingston County P.E.A.N.E. Coalition members include the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office, Community Mental Health Senior Reach, Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan – PREVNT Elder Justice Initiative, Diocese of Lansing, a local financial advisor, Lake Shore Legal Aid – Local Ombudsman, Michigan Adult Protective Services, Legal Services of South Central Michigan and two senior representatives.

According to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse has become a major public health problem. In their 2015 study, the NCEA estimates that financial abuse has cost older Americans between $2.9 billion and $36.5 billion annually. Sadly, elder abuse is vastly underreported, a statement with which our local Prosecuting Attorney concurs. The NCEA estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse is reported, thus it is hard to have exact figures of cost and numbers abused.

NCEA also notes that elder abuse is also associated with increased rates of hospitalization; elders are at a greater risk of dying sooner; and have higher levels of psychological distress than non-victims. As it is estimated that approximately 60% of the abuse is caused by a family member (adult children or spouse), many seniors are reluctant to come forward to report the abuse. Additionally, many professionals working with our senior population often miss the signs of abuse due to lack of awareness and inadequate training on detecting elder abuse.

Mental impairment such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and social isolation are two major factors that contribute to the vulnerability of our senior population. As a good part of our county is still rural, we have many isolated seniors.

As the number of adults entering the 60+ years population continues to be our fastest growing population sector, these numbers will continue to grow. Therefore, it is important to provide elder abuse prevention and education at the community level to intervene and alter attitudes both with the older adult and their abuser. Prevention and education efforts are important with the following, but not limited to, sectors: older adults, caregivers, medical personnel, law enforcement, financial advisors and bankers, and mental health workers. This reduces the tolerance and increases awareness.

LCCC prevention efforts in Phase I have been to bring education and training to not only the seniors and their families but to a limited number of persons working in banking, medical personnel, and those working in senior living facilities. Now with this additional grant funding through Community Foundation for Livingston County, LCCC looks to expand with Phase II.

Phase II will allow LCCC to hire an additional part-time staff member to support this program and enable us to have greater outreach to the banks & financial organizations, dental and medical personnel, etc. It will also allow LCCC to create educational materials for professionals and host an educational seminar on Elder Abuse, offering CEU & FEU’s for those needing continuing education for their certifications.

The Community Foundation for Livingston County has awarded more than $800,000 through more than 150 grants to support and improve public well-being and quality of life in the areas of economic development, human services, arts, civic affairs, education, health and the environment in Livingston County. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has established 19 funds to recognize individuals and businesses in Livingston County, growing the foundation’s endowment to more than $1 million. For more information, please visit www.cflivingston.org.

LCCC is excited to partner with The Community Foundation for Livingston County to continue to enhance the safety and well-being of all county residents. If you would like to have a presentation at your business or to learn more about LCCC’s P.E.A.N.E. efforts, e-mail Penny at penny@livingstoncatholiccharities.org or Beth at beth@livingstoncatholiccharities.org.

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The Livingston Post is the only locally owned, all-digital information and opinion site in Livingston County, Mich. It was launched by award-winning journalists who were laid off from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus by Gannett Co. Inc. in 2009.

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