Tennessee’s version of an elderly abuse law is gaining traction as it cleared the Senate this week, courtesy of Sen. Rusty Crowe (R). The goal is to put in place stronger safety mechanisms that will better protect the elderly and other adults with disabilities against abuse. If Senate Bill 1852 makes it over the remaining political hurdles, the punishments will be increased for those who abuse, exploit or neglect the disabled or elderly.
This will empower district attorneys’ efforts in prosecuting those crimes. It removes some of the challenging hurdles that have traditionally required extraordinary evidence, partly because the victims are often unable to testify on their own behalf due to dementia, Alzheimer’s or other disabilities.
Elder Abuse Statistics & Reporting
One big problem every state faces is the realization that many don’t report the abuse. The statistics reveal only one in 24 cases of elder abuse are even reported. This, according to the New York Elder Abuse Network, truly highlights the tragedy and much needed overhaul to every state’s laws.
New York’s laws have been on the books since 1995. The Elderly Abuse Education and Outreach Program was founded to provide resources, including education and outreach, for the public, but specifically to the state’s elderly and their caregivers. Recently, New York lawmakers laid aside $945,000 in order to keep the program available.
Because the elderly are at a higher risk of death, injury and illness, they’re far more likely to be victimized. In New York, more than 14 percent of seniors have experienced some type of elder abuse since turning 60.
While the changes to the various laws in Tennessee will help prosecutors, this state took it a step further with a statewide database, “Adult Abuse Registry”. This will require cities and counties to report those people who have been convicted of elder abuse and those in the healthcare sector are required to check the database prior to hiring an employee.
Every state has some form of reporting elder abuse, though typically, the mandatory aspect of those reports usually fall to medical providers, government agencies and mental health counselors.
For many families, guardianships provide an additional level of security for their loved ones so that they’re less likely to be taken advantage of, especially from a financial perspective (elderly financial abuse is on the rise, as well). A guardianship can be used for health decisions, which means there are no legalities that prevent meeting with loved one’s doctor with the patient. This open line of communication is crucial as a physician can often spot signs of elder abuse that others miss. When guardianships or powers of attorney are in place, there’s no break in communication and loved ones are less vulnerable
One of the biggest problems, regardless of which state it is, are the startling statistics on who commits elder abuse. In New York financial abuse cases, more than one-third of the criminals are family members. It can be difficult for families to learn an elderly loved one has been abused, but it’s worse when they learn it’s their own family member. With legal protections in place, it can help ensure this type of abuse never occurs.
Need legal guidance for an elderly loved one? Our office can help put into place powers of attorney, guardianships and much more. Give us a call today for a free consultation.
The Law Offices of Barton P. Levine is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.