Courage recognized: SAVE Task Force honors those who fight against elder abuse

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By Christine L. Mobley
Legal News
 
The SAVE Task Force observed the 8th Annual International Elder Abuse Awareness Day with its Courage Awards ceremony and presentation on Friday, June 7, at the Oakland County Commissioners’ Auditorium in Pontiac.
 
SAVE stands for Serving Adults who are Vulnerable and/or Elderly and is a partnership between service agencies and businesses that serve the senior population, law enforcement, and Oakland County Health and Human Services to protect the rights and safety of vulnerable adults.
 
A former prosecutor recognized with the Courage to Lead individual award in 2011, Oakland County 44th District Court Judge Derek Meinecke gave the keynote speech at the event.
 
“In today’s world there are many different types of ways in which our seniors are preyed upon by those who choose to exploit them – it could be as brazen as robberies in broad daylight to that silent quiet abuse perpetrated by someone with an intimate connection to a senior,” Meinecke said. “The challenge as we all come together today for the 8th International Elder Abuse Awareness Day is how do we equip all members of our society with both the knowledge to recognize abuse and the knowledge how to react effectively when they observe that abuse?”
 
In its mission to increase awareness and prevent elder abuse, SAVE recognizes both individuals and organizations that exemplify SAVE’s goals with its Courage Awards. There are two classifications for the Courage Awards – Courage to Speak and Courage to Lead.
 
SAVE co-chairs Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander – whose wife Lynn Alexander co-founded the task force – and Oakland County Probate Court Judge Kathleen Ryan presented the awards. 
 
Bloomfield Hills resident Carol Marshall was presented with the Courage to Speak individual award “for her commitment to fight against elder abuse as well as her unwavering voice on behalf of SAVE and other community organizations.”
 
“ This award – I can’t even tell you what it means to me,” Marshall, who joined SAVE last year, said. “I’m just so happy to see all of the accomplishments that the task force has done and is continuing to do.
 
“Two years ago, I was really ignorant to elder abuse, and perhaps like some of you, didn’t want to think about it. We don’t want to believe that it will happen to us or our family, our friends, or our acquaintances – but it does. I saw it first hand.”
 
After Marshall’s friend had a stroke and was put into a nursing facility, she witnessed numerous atrocities visited upon him as his caregiver felt her repeated cries for help went unheard. Since his death, she continues to work tirelessly to end the abuse of the elderly.
 
“We have to speak up. We have to fight for these people,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how old they are; how much time they have left; whether they’re rich, poor, what color they are, what their backgrounds are – these are human beings that deserve to be cared for with humane treatment and treated with dignity and respect.”
 
The Courage to Speak award for an organization went to Lakeshore Legal Aid “due to its zealous advocacy on behalf of seniors in need of counsel, legal assistance, and protection from elder abuse and neglect.”
 
“It’s not really very courageous for us to speak, it’s the people who have suffered this and are vulnerable and have spoken out about it,” Bill Knight, executive director of Lakeshore Legal Aid, said. “They’re the ones who are living with it and having a hard time admitting they’re in such a situation because it can be so  embarrassing and for our seniors it takes a lot of courage to come out and say ‘I’ve been a victim.’”
 
Echoing that sentiment was Paula Zimmer, managing attorney at Lakeshore Legal Aid.
 
“It’s not our courage to speak, this is our job. This is what we do, but we become a mouthpiece to seniors who find it very difficult to speak on their own behalf,” Zimmer said. “It’s a privilege to stand in front of you who are strong advocates and deserve the award yourselves.”
 
The Courage to Lead Award was presented to retired Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Edward Sosnick, SAVE co-founder and former SAVE co-chair.
 
“It feels wonderful because I was involved SAVE since its inception and the idea of being acknowledged is one of the ways of making me feel that our mission is really, really important,” Sosnick said of the award. “Anything that I can do to help in that regard...I’m always available.”
 
Upon presenting Sosnick with the Courage to Lead Award, Alexander announced that it would now be known as the Edward Sosnick Courage to Lead Award to reflect his dedication to the task force since it was founded in 2005.
 
Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Estate Planning Clinic was recognized with the Courage to Lead Award for an organization. The Estate Planning Clinic (EPC) is a collaborative effort between Lakeshore Legal Aid and Cooley Law School and provides estate planning services to seniors in Oakland County. SAVE recognized the EPC for “its dynamic leadership in the local campaign against elder abuse.”
 
Dustin Foster, Thomas M. Cooley Law School associate professor and director and managing attorney of the EPC, accepted the award. 
 
“We believe in the Estate Planning Clinic that the old saying is true, ‘Knowledge is Power.’ So by getting out there and giving seniors options: by letting them know they are not alone, by letting them know there are resources out there to help them,” Foster said. “We’re hoping to empower other seniors to not only help themselves but to help others and recognize those signs of elder abuse.
 
“Being in the Estate Planning Clinic and teaching over at Thomas Cooley Law School, I’m given the unique situation that I get to pass this knowledge along to attorneys that are in process – those that are going to be fighting for seniors in our community and so I take it upon myself to start getting them the knowledge to recognize the signs of elder abuse, to be aware of the resources that are out there, and to be an advocate for those who can’t do it themselves.”
 
Highlighted during the 8th Annual International Elder Abuse Awareness Day and summing up the need for elder abuse recognition and prevention, the No Excuse for Elder Abuse campaign seeks to educate the public and give everyday citizens the knowledge to recognize and react to the signs of elder abuse.
 
Likening efforts to that of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) in recognizing the potential signs of danger linked to drunk driving, Meinecke noted that there was still a long way to go in gaining that same level of awareness for elder abuse.
 
“The caller who calls on a weaving vehicle hasn’t actually observed the driver drinking and is unaware if there is a medical condition or some other reason that they’re driving poorly but that person is educated on the potential signs of drunk driving and responds appropriately,” Meinecke said. “We need to encourage that same proactive behavior in the citizens of our community when it comes to the signs of elder abuse – help them understand that they are not accusing anyone of a crime but rather acting on the signs of abuse and making sure that a senior is safe.
 
“We need to spread the word to the community on the signs of abuse and what to do when you witness those signs because there is an incredible power in awareness. We can all do our jobs to the best of our ability, but without the actions of citizens in the community taking that extra step when they see those signs we would miss a great deal of the abuse that is actually occurring. That’s what makes the No Excuse for Elder Abuse and other campaign efforts  so important.”
 
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What is elder abuse?
 
Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:
 
•    Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
 
•    Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
 
•    Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
 
•    Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
 
•    Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person's funds, property, or resources.
 
•    Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities.
 
•    Self-neglect is failure to provide for one's own essential needs.
 
What are the warning signs?
 
•    Physical Abuse
 
•    Sexual Abuse
 
•    Psychological and Emotional Abuse
 
•    Financial Exploitation
 
How can I report elder abuse?
 
If you suspect any kind of abuse of an elder, call the statewide 24-hour hotline: 1-855-444-3911
 
For more information on who’s at risk and about the warning signs, visit No Excuse for Elder Abuse on Facebook
 
Source: No Excuse for Elder Abuse on Facebook