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U.S. Senators Introduce Elder Abuse Prevention Act

The Associated Press reported last week on new efforts out of Washington to protect senior residents from elder abuse and neglect. Considering the epidemic proportions of the problem, the proposed legislation could not come at a better time. The measure, known as the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by a cadre of Democratic legislators: Richard Blumenthal, Al Franken, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Robert Casey. The stated goal of the bill is to craft a variety of comprehensive elder abuse prevention measures.

For example, cutting down on the financial exploitation of these seniors is one of the primary goals. This is a problem that our Illinois nursing home lawyers know much about-this may be the least reported form of senior mistreatment. Right now estimates suggest that one to two seniors out of every ten face some financial exploitation. T he total cost of this abuse tops $3 billion each and every year. Senator Blumenthal explained that “rigorous screening and reporting to detect and deter abuse, physical or financial, is necessary to help remedy seniors who may be too fearful or embarrassed to report it themselves.” He went on to explain that the new act would implement tougher screening and reporting standard so that those involved in these misdeed can actually be caught and hopefully held accountable for their actions.

Each of the senators who introduced the bill touched on the fact that the exploitation has gone on for decades will little notice from those in a position to stop it. Senator Casey noted that, “we must bring this largely silent epidemic of elder abuse to an end.” Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys know that “silent” is an apt term to use here, because so much mistreatment is perpetrated on this community while they remain silent. For some victims their silence is a product of their mental condition which prevents them from fully understanding what is happening to them. For others, they are aware that they are not being treated well, but they remain uneasy about speaking up-risking the ire of those around them and causing controversy. Sadly, many seniors feel that they are a burden on their loved ones, and so they do not speak up to demand fairness and proper treatment.

Hopefully this bill spurs more third-parties who can stop the abuse to do so. Specifically, the measure toughens federal definitions of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitations. The definition changes better mesh the terms used in the two previous bills addressing the issue: the Elder Justice Act and the Older American Act. In fact, in the previous two bills elder financial exploitation was not even defined at all-a testament to the fact that this abuse has flown under the radar for far too long. Beyond that, the bill requires better coordination of elder abuse justice programs nationwide and expands the National Adult Protective Services Resource Center to provide additional services and guidance to states. The measure would also require the development of best practices for elder abuse screening and increase support for state prevention, assessment, and response services.

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