Elder Law of Michigan (ELM) is proud to host the Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards. The Call to Justice Awards honor those individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the fields of law and aging. Leading up to the awards, ELM will be sharing what our honorees have to say first-hand about their experiences in the fields of law and aging. Christopher Becker, honoree at the West Michigan Call to Justice Awards, shared with ELM why he got involved with helping the aging community.
Q: What drew you to working with the elderly and/or vulnerable adults?
A: “Quite frankly nothing drew me in, I was pulled in! Just after I started working for the office the then Chief Assistant called me in and asked if I was still playing cards with seniors on Sunday afternoons at St. Ann’s Home, a local nursing home. I had started that when I moved home through a program at my church. I was, so he said there is some new law on vulnerable adult abuse and there is training in Lansing on it next week, why don’t you go and figure out what it is all about. That’s how I got involved.”
Q: What do you find most rewarding about the work that you do?
A: “The most rewarding thing about my job is protecting those who really cannot protect themselves. These people are truly “victims”; they have done everything right, paid their taxes, raised their kids, worked hard at their jobs, they have earned the right to enjoy it in their last years. Unfortunately, they make inviting targets and are blindsided when it all comes crashing down. I like to think we help them though all of that with our involvement.”
Q: What is the hardest part about your job?
A: “The hardest part is when you cannot do anything. Seniors are not children, they have a right to make bad decisions. Many times we see them doing just that, but there is nothing you can do to stop it even though you know where it is all going to end up.”
Q: Do you have a memorable client story to share?
A: “My most recent trial with an 86-year-old rape victim is an amazing story. She lived in her home for over 50 years, raised a family, buried her husband while living there. A serial rapist knocks on her door, forces his way in, and violates her in ways she probably never dreamed could happen to her. Forced to move out of her home. Defense attorney is cross-examining her and her description of the defendant after she has gone through all this. She is completely unflappable. To the police in the hospital just after it happened she stated he looked 20-25 years old. He was actually in his early 50’s. Defense pounces on that, ‘Didn’t you tell the police he looks young, somewhere in his 20’s?!’ She gives him a slight smile and says, ‘Son, at my age EVERYONE looks young.'”
Q: Why do you continue working in this field?
A: “There is a need to have people familiar with this age group be involved, the country is getting older not younger.”
Q: What do you think will be the biggest need for seniors in the next 10 years?
A: “The biggest need for seniors is education on how they, and their families, can protect themselves. I think financial abuse is important and will be a growing problem, but physical abuse of seniors in nursing homes, retirement homes, and by family members is huge and growing tremendously. Unfortunately I think we are missing a vast majority of them because they are behind closed doors and extremely hard to discover.”
Q: How does Elder Law of Michigan help in the work that you do?
A: “Elder Law of Michigan has provided training to law enforcement in our area, and provided training to other prosecutors in the area of elder abuse. They continue to work with law enforcement to strengthen the laws that we use to protect seniors in Michigan.”
The Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the fields of law and aging. This year, Elder Law of Michigan (ELM) is celebrating the contributions of our honorees across Michigan at three awards receptions in Southeast, West, and Mid-Michigan. Award receptions include a cocktail hour featuring hors d’oeuvres and cash bar, followed by an awards ceremony celebrating our distinguished honorees. Tickets can be purchased online at www.elderlawofmi.org/calltojustice. Net proceeds from the Call to Justice Awards will benefit ELM through the Access to Justice Fund. For more information about the Call to Justice Awards, including biographies of all of our honorees, please visit our website.