Her comments and those of a host of powerful national figures in Washington, D.C. were broadcast as part of a Webcast Watch Party held June 14 at the Irving Heritage Senior Center.
An audience of approximately 70 listened as national speakers unveiled a series of initiatives surrounding elder abuse, highlighting education and prevention. Included were a healthcare fraud prevention program; a program for civil legal aid outreach; discussion of ways to identify and prevent exploitation of seniors; and formation of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council. Of particular interest: $5.5 million in funds available through the Affordable Care Act, to be awarded for worthy pilot projects in elder abuse prevention.
Former Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett appeared on the webcast to introduce Wells Fargo CEO Daniel Ludeman who described how his company had formed a Legal Advice Team to handle the growing count of fraud reports, which lead to outreach with Adult Protective Services and related organizations.
Then it was time to break away from the webcast and bring in the live panel. Representing Region VI (North Texas) were Derek Lee, U.S. Administration for Community Living (serving as moderator) and Marjorie McColl Petty, Regional Director for the five-state region of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Other panel members were John Dornheim, President of the Community Board/ Dallas County Adult Protective Services and Suzanna Sulstede of the Senior Source Dallas Nursing Home Ombudsman Program.
McColl Petty said seniors and advocates in Irving had shown a “heartening” degree of involvement in the issue.
“During the discussion, we had one lady ask a question about potential financial exploitation,” she remarked, “and my fellow panel member, Ms. Sulstede, recruited her right away for a program with the Senior Source. That was just one example of how people were volunteering to help.
“It was encouraging to hear that the community was stepping up to be responsive.
“Here in the Dallas area we have another issue, where some of our citizens don’t speak English, so we need to be certain we educate all elders.”
Representing the Irving Police Department, Bill Kiernat addressed an important issue.
“I’m a detective, and I investigate financial crimes,” he said. “I’ve been tasked with investigating crimes against the elderly. And over the past several years, we have seen an uptick in crimes – everything from just the con man going door to door, to very detailed scams. From lottery scams, to CPAs and homecare workers stealing the money from seniors.
“If you’re in this situation, give the police department a call. I think it’s the only way we’re going to stop this.”