Federal Bill to Protect Seniors Advances in Senate

Over the past two years there has been increased focus on the scourge of elder abuse in all its forms. Yet, the awareness effort has not led to any federal legal changes to help protect seniors from things like physical neglect at home to senior financial exploitation. That may soon change.

According to a report from the West Central Tribune, a bill in the U.S. Senate to help prevent these harms recently advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It passed out of committee on a 15-3 vote and will now be sent to the full Senate for approval.

Known as the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act, the measure strengthens the tools available to states to provide proper oversight of guardians and senior conservators. This focus on oversight is critical, as New York elder law attorneys know that, at least when it comes to financial abuse, a lack of third-party monitoring allows the problem to go unnoticed.

Considering the obvious need for improvement, the measure is supported by those on both sides of the aisle, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Advancement of the bill and increased focus on senior caregiving could not come at a better time, because the senior population continues to rise each and every day. Failure to account for the issue now means that literally millions might be affected in coming years. To address the problem the measure allows states to use existing money to improve monitoring systems and creates an electronic filing system to monitor guardians and conservatorship audits.

As Sen. Klobuchar noted during committee hearings last week, “I know every state has incidences of people getting ripped off millions of dollars when their loved one is supposed to be under the care of a guardian. Most guardians do amazing work, good work, but again you have a situation where you have a few that are causing a lot of harm.”

The New York elder law attorneys at our firm understand that while these sorts of measures are helpful, no law can actually end the instances of abuse. Instead, preparation and active involvement of others is needed to root out abuse or mistreatment as early as possible. Sadly, many seniors are isolated, have no third-party assistance, and are exploited for a considerable length of time before anyone notices. In some cases the mistreatment is never brought to light. All local residents should be very active in their monitoring of at-risk seniors’ physical, emotional, and financial well-being.

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