Do you know an elderly or helpless person that is being victimized or abused? The Safe Haven program in the Region 2 Area Agency on Aging can help, but the program could use a hand from the community as well.
By Matt Schepeler
It was Mahatma Gandhi who famously said: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” While many of our most vulnerable do experience abuse in a variety of ways, there are people dedicated to helping them get to a safe haven.
Kara Lorenz, left, a clinical director at the Region 2 Area Agency on Aging in Brooklyn, tells of a local elderly woman who was being physically and financially abused.
“A caregiver who became aware of it called Adult Protective Services, and they called us,” said Lorenz. “That day we set up transportation for the person to get out of the house. They also had to go to the hospital to get treatment, not for the abuse, but for other medical reasons.
“We set up a ride to get them to the hospital, then transportation to a safe location. We are currently serving that person, and actively looking for housing. We have contact with her daily to follow up and make sure she has the care she needs.”
While this woman didn’t need 24-hour care, the agency will provide that as well, if needed. “They might need help like toileting and things like that. There are some very vulnerable people,” said Lorenz.
The program that helps these people is called Safe Haven and is operated by the Region 2 Area Agency on Aging. The agency serves a large area, including Jackson, Lenawee, and Hillsdale counties, but help many people right here in the Irish Hills.
For example, the Safe Haven project recently assisted an older adult who was being taken advantage of financially by his live-in caregiver. His living situation was determined to be unsafe and he was moved to a temporary safe house and provided food and other necessities the same day the agency was asked to get involved.
Region 2 Area Agency on Aging officials are now working with the man, Adult Protective Services, and other community partners to ensure that he gets to a place where he wants to live, feel safe, and has the support he needs to be independent and in control of his life.
“This story is far too common in our community,” said Lorenz, noting that financial exploitation, scams, theft, and physical and even sexual abuse are not uncommon.
Often, the abuse is subtle. “Sometimes family members experience caregiver burnout, and they may not even realize they are burned out as a caregiver and there might be traces of abuse,” she said. Other cases are much more obvious.
Before Safe Haven came along, getting people to safety typically took much longer. “It exposed the vulnerable person to even more potential abuse,” said Lorenz.
Of course, the Safe Haven program costs money to institute and maintain, and funding does not come automatically. The Region 2 Area Agency on Ageing is a non-profit 501(C)(3) – not a government agency, as many assume. And with the success they experienced in providing immediate, temporary safe shelter through Safe Haven, they want to keep the program available.
That takes money and this is why they are asking the community for help.
On June 14, at The Point Bar and Grill, 1200 Eagle Point Road at Clarklake, AAA officials are hosting a fundraiser that for the Safe Haven program. There will be guest speakers, and all proceeds raised will go to Safe Haven.
“People can get tickets or find out about sponsoring at our website or by walking into the office,” said Lorenz. The Region 2 Area Agency on Aging is located at 102 N. Main St. in Brooklyn. Click here to learn more about the event.