WASHINGTON – Two senators hope to combat abuse against the elderly with a bill that would better train workers to detect abused senior citizens and require FBI criminal background checks of nursing home aides.
The legislation being introduced Monday by Sens. John Breaux, D-La. and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, comes after lawmakers have heard repeated reports of cases of abuse against senior citizens. Many of those cases were outlined in a series of congressional hearings last year.
"Thousands of cases of elder abuse go unaddressed every day," Breaux said Monday.
Just last week, the president of a business that operated nursing homes in St. Charles, Mo. was fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year in jail for failing to report elderly abuse. The charges stemmed from the beating death of a 78-year-old resident.
In Philadelphia, five people were indicted in October on various charges after an 83-year-old retirement home resident was beaten to death. Authorities said the man had an 18-inch bruise on his side, broken ribs, internal bleeding and a collapsed lung.
The bill uses the same approach used to combat child abuse and violence against women, he added.
"Without more attention and more resources, far too many of these cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation will go unaddressed and far too many older Americans will suffer," said Breaux, who is the leading Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
The bill would create new programs to assist victims and establish grants to better educate and train law enforcement and prosecutors about elder abuse. It would also establish offices within the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to deal with elder abuse issues.
Representatives of more than 50 advocacy groups used the introduction of the bill to announce the formation of the Elder Justice Coalition to push for the measure's passage.