Studies show that elder abuse victims increase their risk of premature death threefold. Almost 11 percent of Americans age 60 and older are victims of some form of elder abuse in a year’s time, according to studies. Senior day-care and care facilities have seen an increase in the number of elder abuse incidents.
To be clear, elder abuse is defined by the National Center of Elder Abuse as any “knowing, intended or careless act” that causes harm or risk to a senior. Elder abuse — physical, mental, emotional or financial — is most common among family caregivers or anyone who may be in close proximity to the senior.
The Elder Justice Act, signed on March 23, 2010, seeks to better understand, educate, prevent, identify, stop and prosecute elder abuse utilizing federal resources — something that wasn’t available until the signing of the act. The Act is a part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Act specifies that the Department of Health and Human Services oversee the management of the federal funds designated to protect senior citizens and vulnerable adults with disabilities. Funds will focus on education, leadership, research and guidance as it relates to preventing elder abuse. The Act also requires:
- Establishment of an advisory board on elder abuse, forensic centers and an Elder Justice Coordinating Council
- Enrichment and bettering of long-term care for seniors
- Funding be distributed to local and state Adult Protective Services (APS) offices
- Written grants for long-term care ombudsmen programs, as well as state agencies to help administer care surveys at nursing facilities
- Programs to provide training
The Elder Justice Act also has implications for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its actions in preventing elder abuse. The Act requires the DOJ to study and evaluate existing laws regarding elder abuse, as well as:
- Craft objectives, policies and long-term care plans for elder justice programs
- Study state laws and practices
- Make grants available to develop training programs for law enforcement and other first responders
- Ensure the DOJ sets aside adequate resources to investigate and prosecute elder abuse cases
Additionally, the Elder Justice Act creates a nationwide database and program for background checks regarding care facilities’ employees. Also, elder abuse at long-term care facilities must be reported to law enforcement.
The Act also encourages community and state agencies to provide awareness programs for seniors regarding financial exploitation, whether it occurs on a local, national or international level.
Prior to the Elder Justice Act, federal funding was not available to provide grants and resources to raise awareness and combat elder abuse.
The elder abuse lawyers of Garcia, Artigliere & Medby regularly represent victims of elder abuse or nursing home abuse. This can be an emotional time for the victim and family members. Please call our offices immediately at 1-800-281-8515.