June is Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month

June Focuses on Elder Abuse Prevention

Our Elders are one of our most precious resources.  Elders are the connection to our past and hold stories and facts of our family’s history.  Elders should always be treated with kindness and the utmost respect.  Sadly, this is not the case for many of our loved ones. 

An Elder is legally defined as a person 65 and older. However, in Native American communities, becoming an elder is not typically reaching a specific age but a distinct cultural status earned from wisdom, knowledge, and responsibility to others.  Being an Elder is different from being elderly. “Elderly” is associated with age and the ability to care for oneself.  Elder and elderly status varies from tribe to tribe. 

Out of respect, the term Elder will be used here.   The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship with an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect”.


Such abuse can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial or material exploitation, neglect, self-neglect, abandonment, and spiritual abuse.  Our Elders are at a greater risk for abuse due to an increase in Elder population and limited caregiving services and support.  The World Health Organization reports that the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.  (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abuse-of-older-people) Elder abuse is one of the least investigated forms of abuse and does not get addressed as frequently as other social issues.  Research suggests that 4 to 6 percent of older people suffer from abuse, most of which go unreported.  It is reported that Elder abuse instances happen primarily in the home of the Elder, and a family member commits ninety percent of abuse and neglect incidents.  

Elders may not always feel comfortable reporting such abuse. Therefore we must advocate for our seniors and give them a voice.  Often, seniors fear repercussions for reporting the abuse or are too frail to do so.   It is crucial for us to be aware of signs of abuse and to report the abuse to the proper authorities.  Adult Protective Services for Michigan can be contacted at 1-855-444-3911.  Anishnaabek Community and Family Services provides Adult Protective Services and may be reached at (906) 632-5250 or (906) 495-1232. 

Warning signs for caregivers and family members of Elders to watch for are:

Pain that is “new” or different 

Fear or anxiety Depression or becoming aggressive Isolated or not responsive 

Difficulty sleeping Cuts, sores, or burns Broken bones, bruises, or welts 

Untreated bed sores Torn, stained clothing or blood on undergarments 

Dirty, unkempt hygiene Hazardous or poor living conditions   

Lack of or broken medical aids; glasses, walker, dentures, hearing aids, medication Sudden change in function or mobility 

Unusual weight loss, poor nutrition, dehydration 

Change in overall mood or demeanor 

Bills not paid or utilities turned off 

Significant changes in finances 

There are many forms of abuse against older people.  


Physical: Hitting, shoving, restraining, or confining; anything causing physical pain or impairment

Emotional: Intimidation, humiliation, routine blaming, ignoring, isolating, causing anguish or distress, degrading, ridiculing, insults, using silence or profanity 

Sexual Abuse: Sexual harassment, sexual activity without consent (rape), forcing elders to watch sexual acts or to undress 

Financial Abuse: Stealing money, property titles, or possessions; taking over accounts or bills; spending without permission; abusing the power of attorney privilege; scamming/lying 

Financial Neglect: Allowing essential bills such as mortgages, utilities, insurance, medical bills, or property taxes to go unpaid, resulting in shut-off notices, eviction, foreclosure, or not having insurance coverage 

Financial Exploitation- Misusing or exploiting property, belongings, or assets. For example: using an Elder’s money, credit cards, or property without consent, under false pretenses, or through intimidation and manipulation 

Health Care Fraud- Healthcare professionals overcharging or billing twice for services, falsifying claims, or charging for services not rendered Elder Internet, Mail, and Phone Scams- Elders are often victims of significant financial loss due to scams disguised as charity donations, investment opportunities, lottery winnings, sweepstakes, or making wire transfers to thieves imitating a family member 

Spiritual/Moral Abuse: Denies access to religious services or leaders, makes fun of victim’s values or religion, ignores or ridicules cultural or religious traditions, intimidates and threatens for practicing beliefs 

Neglect: Failure to fulfill duties or obligations for elders, not caring for hygiene or condition of the home, poor nutrition, bed sores, soiled undergarments, medical neglect-missed appointments, not reporting medical issues 

Self-Neglect: Refusal by elder to care for themselves; inadequate nutrition, improper clothing, lack of or unkempt shelter, poor hygiene, not taking medication, and not following safety precautions 

Sault Tribe Elder Services consists of many programs that can assist with Elder’s needs. The Elder In-Home Services program provides services that give frail and homebound elders the ability to stay in their homes, maintain a good quality of life, and age in place.  

In-Home Care Services consist mainly of personal care, homemaking, and respite care. The Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Program provides rides to medical appointments. This program is to assist elders who, for a variety of factors, have difficulty using conventional means of transportation to reach medical health care services. 

There are wide varieties of appointments, from routine medical care to chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer patients and scheduled dialysis for those requiring ongoing care. Rides are provided to tribal health clinics, hospitals, and medical buildings in several areas, including Petoskey and Gaylord, Mich.  

The Elder Health Fund provides payment on various services for duly enrolled tribal elders age 60 and over living in the United States and as certified by the Tribal Registrar. The fund assists with partial payment for dentures, eyeglasses, and other items deemed "medically necessary" by a physician and compliant with Medicare standards.  

The Elder Meal Program provides congregate meals at meal sites throughout the tribal service area. Daily meal programs operate in Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, Hessel and Manistique. Three sites provide home-delivered meals (Meals-on-Wheels) to homebound elders and their caregivers. Sault Tribe’s Elder Outreach Service program is designed to establish critical relationships with tribal elders and families in their homes. 

The Elder Outreach Worker coordinates programs and services to help tribal elders maintain a good quality of life and age in place. Outreach Workers travel to tribal elders’ homes to assess and identify elders’ and family needs and find resources to meet those needs.  They also organize and promote elder involvement in aging programs.  

Outreach workers will assist in the coordination of home care services and provide assistance to tribal elders in completing applications for tribal service programs and assist in the coordination of meals-on-wheels services, transportation, and any other service needs of tribal elders.  Areas of assistance may include physical, mental, psychological, and social aging-related needs.  Four full-time Elder Outreach Workers cover the seven-county service areas at each end of the Upper Peninsula.  Let us celebrate our Elders and show them the honor and respect they deserve. 

Please make a point to stop and visit your elders and let them know you are there for them.  If they are able, go for a walk or play a game.  Please encourage them to share stories about your family.  With their permission, record their stories via audio or video to cherish the memories when they walk on.  Bring their favorite snacks or treats to lift their spirits.  Play their favorite music, brush or comb their hair, help clean their home or bedroom, or make a phone call to let them know you are thinking of them.  Your kindness can truly make a difference.                 

The Sault Tribe’s Advocacy Resource Center (ARC) offers Elder related victim services such as advocacy and financial services.  Advocates may be reached at (906) 632-1808.  For more information, visit www.arcsaulttribe.com or our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/saulttribeARC.

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