State elder abuse taskforce presents plan to protect seniors

"My father was taken from us - and when I say us - I mean his entire family, all of his friends anyone who knew and loved him," said Kerri Kasem.

Kerri Kasem the daughter of radio legend Casey Kasem, described the long legal battle to be her father's conservator shortly before his death in 2014.

"In this case guardianship worked in my favor," she said. "I proved egregious elder abuse and I was given guardianship. But to actually take it away from someone who shouldn't have it, a power of attorney, or someone who is abusing somebody, is extremely hard."

On Thursday the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee met to hear testimony related to a package of bills aimed at guardianship and conservator reform to prevent the elderly from being taken advantage of.

Catherine Haddock among those who said the system allowing third parties to take control of elderly people's lives possessions and health care can produce dangerous outcomes. She says she experienced this with her mom Nancy.

"It put her in more peril and more danger, and she almost died because of it," Haddock said. "She never had any health issues and didn't have a reason to need a guardian."

Four bills are in this package, born out of recommendations from Attorney General Dana Nessel's Elder Abuse Task Force.

Measures include requiring judges to explain the specific reasons for appointing a professional guardian rather than a family member, and requiring professional guardians to be certified.

State Senator Ruth Johnson is helping to lead the effort.

"People's lives are being robbed from them," Johnson said. "We have a system that doesn't have checks and balances and our most vulnerable are being taken advantage of. Their quality of life has changed because of the system we have right now."

There is also a companion package of bills working its way through the Michigan State House on this very issue. This is the first time that the Senate is hearing testimony about this package.