Nessel: Previous elder abuse panels found problems, we want to find solutions

Attorney General Dana Nessel, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein and Justice Megan Cavanagh at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

At a stop in Flint on a Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force listening tour, Attorney General Dana Nessel laid out the difference between this effort from prior task forces. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

The state previously launched a Supreme Court task force in 1998 on guardianships and conservatorships and a governor’s task force on elder abuse in 2007. 

But Nessel said those panels merely identified problems, while this task force is focused on finding solutions.

“They were great at identifying the problems in the system. Unfortunately, they never went that next step and create solutions to those problems,” Nessel said. “So that’s what we decided we were going to do.”

“When this process is finished with, I honestly believe that we will make more progress on these issues, just in the first year of the existence of this task force, than we have done perhaps in the last 30 or 40 years in this state.”

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Michigan Supreme Court justices Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh joined Nessel at the event as co-chairs of the task force. 

Bernstein said that, because he is blind, he has a unique understanding of some of the challenges that seniors face. 

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

“I think that I am blessed in the fact, in certain situations, that I was born with a severe disability. It can be challenging; it can be difficult. And yes, there’s a lot of pain that comes with it,” Bernstein said.

“But the thing that allows me to see the purpose in it is that having the opportunity to serve as a Supreme Court justice who has a severe disability gives a unique perspective on what it is that we’re here to learn about, talk about and, hopefully, have the chance to improve.”

Bernstein said that his biggest concern with the way seniors are treated right now is the guardianship process. 

“Sometimes it takes having a disability to understand what this means, to understand what this represents, to understand how you feel when that happens,” Bernstein said. “Because when you have a disability, you know that feeling of being reliant; you know that feeling of trying to get through the day; you know that feeling of trying to basically allow for people to see or to hear you; you know that feeling of what it’s like to try and advocate for yourself, but to have people never talk to you but to talk to those around you. You know that feeling of being a little less of a person, even though your soul and your spirit is strong.”

AG creates new Elder Abuse Task Force

The Flint event was the 10th stop on the statewide tour, which has previously included Traverse City, Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Clinton Township, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Mt. Pleasant and Bay City. A stop in Detroit is scheduled for Monday. 

Nessel joined forces with Bernstein and Cavanagh to launch the task force in March. Nine elder abuse cases have been filed by Nessel since the task force was created.

Michigan residents can submit tips to the attorney general’s office by calling the elder abuse hotline at 844-24-ABUSE or go online

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