Sadly, financial exploitation and abuse of Elders happen in all communities. Here at Mille Lacs, reports of the problem have increased in recent years. In one year alone, the caseload in the Elder Abuse Program went from four to 30.
“It’s a massive issue in our community,” said Kate Kalk, Family Violence Prevention Program Administrator. “I would say that the majority of cases we’re seeing in our Elder Abuse Program are a direct result of the opioid crisis that we’re in.”
The typical case involves an Elder who is providing a home for a child and grandchildren. “We’ve had cases where daughters with kids are staying with Grandma and taking her food,” said Kate. “So it’s not only financial, but it’s taking the bare necessities that our Elders are living on.”
Some Elders have given out their personal identification numbers and credit or debit cards to relatives who have taken their money. Others have been unable to pay their rent be-ause they’ve given away all their money. Reports have been made of individuals going door to door at the ALU to beg relatives for money.
A common frustration these Elders express: “I’m done helping my child, but I want to take care of my grandchildren.”
“They don’t want to kick their child out because they don’t want to hurt the grandchildren,” said Kate. “And a lot of times, the Elder is having trouble taking care of himself or herself, let alone children and grandchildren, sometimes newborn babies.”
When Elder Abuse Program advocates receive a report of potential Elder abuse, they meet with prospective clients to tell them about the services available, answer their questions, and give them time to process the information and decide whether or not they would like to utilize advocacy services.
Often the program tries to make use of “natural supports” — family members and friends who are trustworthy and can help protect the Elder from exploitation.
“Our advocates have done a phenomenal job addressing this problem,” said Kate.
Because of the complex nature of the problem, the Elder Abuse Program, which is part of the Community Support Ser- vices Division of Health and Human Services, works with other programs like Wraparound, Public Health, and Family Services to help the entire family.
Elders who are being exploited, or family members who fear for their Elders’ safety and security, should call Elder Advocate Dave Stumpf at 320-630-2676 or the Central Intake Line for Family Services at 320-532-7764.
The Elder Abuse and Family Violence Prevention Programs serve Band members in all districts and the urban area.