Elder abuse is a viscous problem in the United States, and it is only getting worse. Now, a number of states are toughening laws aimed at protecting senior citizens.
Senior citizens, like children, are often the victims of several forms of abuse and neglect. In addition to physical abuse, they may also fall prey to financial and prescription drug abuse.
Most family members who take are given custody over elderly relatives are dedicated, loving, and do their best to care for their aging relative. A bad few, however, will use the power they are given to divert prescription drugs, including narcotics, for their own use. Some will also spend the life savings accumulated by the senior, wasting it on personal items, travel, and expenses not related to the care of their charge. According to a 2011 study, seniors lose $2.9 billion dollars a year through financial abuse by those charged with helping them. The AARP estimates one out of every six seniors fall prey to this kind of crime.
A new bill now before the Vermont Senate would allow investigators to have access to medical and financial records of seniors. Under current law, a relative with power of attorney can refuse to turn those records over to the authorities. Prosecutors tell the press it is difficult to prove allegations of elder abuse without having access to this data. Lawmakers in the Green Mountain State will attempt to bring the bill up for a vote on Tuesday, March 18th.
In Iowa, lawmakers are crafting another bill that has the same goal of reducing abuse of the elderly. The Hawkeye State has one of the lowest percentages of elderly people in the country. But, there are few regulations in the state protecting senior citizens from potential abuse. For seniors who are not legally dependent on someone else, Iowa offers no specific laws directed at preventing abuse of senior citizens.
As elder abuse becomes more common, laws in individual states are likely to be strengthened by lawmakers in other states as well.