Elder abuse is a serious and widespread problem. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimates that one to two million elders are exploited or mistreated by someone they depend on for care. As an example in 2005, people 65 and older lost $1.3 billion in personal property crimes. Elder justice is about elder abuse prevention whether it occurs in the home or in a facility.
What is the Elder Justice Act? It became law on March 23, 2010, as part of the national Health Care Reform Bill. The most important parts provide for funding for Adult Protection Services for states and establishes an Elder Justice Coordinating Counsel to start the process to coordinate the activities of federal, state, local and private agencies and entities relating to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
What are the types of elder abuse?
- Physical abuse – use of force to threaten or physically injure a vulnerable elder.
- Emotional abuse – verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain or distress to a senior.
- Sexual abuse.
- Exploitation – theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property.
- Neglect – a caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical or emotional needs.
- Abandonment – desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care.
- Self-neglect – an elder becomes unable to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or in-actions, which leads to or may lead to harm or endangerment.
As people age often there is a conflict between the rights of the elderly senior to make independent decisions and the need to protect that senior from making or failing to make decisions that put them in danger.
This is a difficult balancing act between permitting the senior to have full control of their life and protecting them when necessary. Just being aware of the problem is a start to help eliminate elder abuse.
So the good news is the Elder Justice Act is now law, and has started the process to protect the elderly from abuse. The bad news is Congress failed to provide funding to implement the act. What can you do? Contact Senators Crapo and Risch, and Congressmen Simpson and Minich and ask that they support the funding for the Elder Justice Act1.
P.S. I’ve missed the past few weeks because I have been out of town. I attended a statewide meeting in McCall where we shared information and ideas on how to more effectively represent our clients to help them obtain Medicaid benefits. Then I went to Las Vegas to help grade exams for a national test to be Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA). I am one of approximately 400 CELAs. Unfortunately it appears only 6 of 16 passed the test. I came home with a cold and that put me out of commission for a week. Happy Fall to you!
1The Elder Justice Act: Where We Are Today, September 8, 2010, Bob Blancato, National Coordinator, Elder Justice Coalition, www.elderjusticecoalition.com