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Detroit’s Only Elder Abuse Shelter Flooded With Calls

Happy Telephone Operators

Michigan nonprofit Jewish Senior Life opened a shelter for victims of elder abuse last week in Oakland County, and staff say the phone is already “ringing off the hook” with callers in need of help.

“We’ve had anything from veterans, to people living with their own children, to people who want to volunteer their time or donate,” said Rochelle Upfal, CEO of Jewish Senior Life. “It’s a hidden epidemic because this [problem] hasn’t been discussed openly.”

Experts say elder abuse is vastly under-reported, and includes everything from financial exploitation to physical abuse. In 2014, the state’s Adult Protective Services investigated 13,511 complaints of elder abuse, but advocates say far more aging Americans are likely abused in Michigan each year.

Nationwide, about 1.6 million Americans live in more than 17,000 nursing homes, and experts say the elderly are abused in one out of every three nursing homes. One study found that between January 1999 and January 2001, 5,283 facilities were cited for about 9,000 elder abuse complaints.

Upfal says the high demand at the new Elder Abuse Prevention at Jewish Senior Life shelter shows that the issue has since reached crisis levels. The new shelter is open to people of all faiths and is the first of its kind in Michigan.

Seniors who are sent to the shelter will be taken in by one of four retirement homes run by the nonprofit, and will live free of charge among other residents.

“For us, it is using our existing retirement community where they have access to safe housing and a social worker until they either can go back home or find suitable housing,” Upfal said.

The new program also received a $25,000 grant from the state government. To learn more information about the new shelter, or to report elder abuse, Michigan residents can call the shelter’s 24/7 hotline at (248) 661-0123.

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