According to a report by Rhonda McMillion, an editor of the ABA (American Bar Association) Washington Letter, a publication of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, a new federal law championed by the ABA will fight elder abuse and exploitation. The report, which appeared in the December 2017 issue of the ABA Journal, notes the following:
The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017 was signed into law by President Trump in October after passing through the House and Senate, where dramatic statistics on elder fraud and abuse prompted overwhelming support for the legislation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) sponsored the legislation with 14 other co-sponsors.
Elder Abuse takes many forms: physical abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, sexual abuse, and emotional or psychological abuse. Research estimates that one in 14 cases of abuse is reported to authorities. Despite the under reporting of cases, the National Council on Aging found that one in 10 Americans age 60 or older has experienced some form of abuse; and some estimates show that as many as 5 million seniors are abused each year.
Recent studies show that about half of those who have dementia experience abuse or neglect, and that interpersonal violence occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults who have disabilities. Older Americans who have been victims of abuse have a 300 percent higher mortality rate than those who have not.
Also widely under reported is financial exploitation of the elderly. Losses suffered by older Americans are estimated at $2.9 billion per year, and there are additional billions of dollars in costs to businesses, families and government programs.
The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act requires, among other things:
- Designation of at least one U.S. attorney in every federal judicial district to prosecute or assist with elder abuse cases.
- A comprehensive training program on the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse.
- Appointment of an elder justice coordinator within the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
- Improved data collection and coordination.
- Enhanced criminal penalties for telemarketing and email marketing fraud directed at seniors.
Research shows the country’s fastest-growing demographic segment is people 85 and older, and the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that people 65 and older will make up about 20 percent of the population by 2030.