Press Release

Legal Services for the Elderly releases online handbook for seniors

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine seniors in search of information about their legal rights will be able to find this information all in one place in a new online Elder Rights Handbook. The release of the handbook, created by Legal Services for the Elderly, comes at the beginning of a major public awareness campaign focused on prevention of financial exploitation of Maine’s seniors.

A General Accountability Office report issued in November 2012 (GAO-13-110) found that a national strategy is needed to effectively combat elder financial exploitation.  The report found the national strategy should include a nationwide public awareness campaign.  Currently nothing like that is taking place on the federal level and in the meantime the problem continues to grow in Maine and across the nation.

An estimated 33,000 seniors are abused in Maine each year, and 87 percent of the perpetrators are family members. The goal of LSE’s statewide campaign is to educate seniors about common exploitation scenarios and make sure they know that free legal aid is available. Handbook content includes extensive elder abuse prevention information as well as information about a broad range of other topics including consumer debt, housing, MaineCare, Medicare, Powers of Attorney, elder abuse, financial exploitation, surviving spouse issues, and many other areas of interest to seniors and their family members.

Jaye Martin, Executive Director at LSE, states, “It is hard for anyone to admit they have been taken advantage of by a family member or someone they trusted, but seniors in Maine need to know this is a common problem, and help is just a phone call away.”

The launch of the online handbook marks the end of a year-long project that was funded by a grant from the Administration for Community Living. Handbook topics were chosen based on information collected by the University of Maine Center on Aging and current LSE cases. The content was carefully edited using the National Institute on Aging’s recommendations for creating accessible, senior-friendly publications, to ensure that even difficult legal concepts are conveyed in easy to understand language.

The public awareness campaign following the release of the Handbook is also funded by ACL and by the John T. Gorman Foundation. The campaign, which will run from February through August 2014, will include television, radio and newspaper advertisements that identify typical financial exploitation scenarios and include information on where seniors can go for help.

The Elder Rights Handbook can be viewed online at mainelse.org/handbook on computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Free legal aid is available to Maine seniors by calling Legal Services for the Elderly at 1-800-750-5353.

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