Few things are more heartbreaking than reports of one in 10 seniors over 60-years-old suffering from elder abuse. Many of these victims also have dementia, which means that they can’t call for help, or no one believes them if they do. However, in a rare display of bipartisanship, both houses of Congress signed a new bill into law in late 2020 that better protects those with dementia.
Authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act ensures that the Department of Justice’s elder abuse training materials now includes materials directly related to Alzheimer’s and related dementias. There are currently more than 5 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s.
Other key components include:
- Requiring the National Elder Justice Coordinator to consider the issue facing those with dementia when drafting training materials
- Requiring the DOJ to consult with the appropriate stakeholders drafting new materials and updating older ones
- Requiring the DOJ’s annual report to cite where to find these public materials
The new law builds on 2017’s Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act. It also is aligned with the latest information from the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be an increased risk for elder abuse, including elder financial exploitation,” said Senator Collins, a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, in a statement. “This law I co-authored with Senators Menendez and Grassley will help to ensure that the frontline professionals who are leading the charge against elder abuse have the training needed to respond to cases where the victim or a witness has Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.”
The Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and many other organizations hailed the passing of this bill.
Laws are not enough
This new law is crucial in protecting the most vulnerable of our elderly. Still, it is also up to family and loved ones to note any signs of abuse and report them to the appropriate people — it may be administrators in a nursing facility, the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies who have jurisdiction over elder abuse. Legal action by the family may also be necessary.