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Q & A Elder abuse

June 21, 2019
With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley - R-Iowa , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Q: How did stopping elder abuse become one of your priorities in Congress?

A: Close-knit families and communities across Iowa are enriched by the contributions and life experiences of older citizens. Unfortunately, some members of society don't treat their elders with the respect and dignity they deserve.

One in 10 Americans ages 60 and older may experience abuse, neglect or exploitation. Throughout my service in Congress, I have worked to help improve the quality of life of older Americans through advocacy and policymaking, including support for the Older Americans Act. In the last Congress, I wrote the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act.

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U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
R-Ioowa

It authorizes coordinated data collection to help guide more effective policymaking to root out a broad range of elder abuse, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse; confinement or neglect; deprivation of basic necessities; and financial exploitation.

Better information will guide better policies and target resources to combat and prosecute all forms of elder abuse. I also support updates to the Elder Justice Act to continue the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, the long term care ombudsman program and investigative forensic resources, among other activities.

I've used my legislative and oversight authority to examine what society and the federal government can do better to ensure older Americans live with dignity and security.

As people transition from the workforce to retirement, age-related health conditions will create challenges and opportunities for communities to meet, from health care to transportation and housing.

Too many older citizens are victimized by financial scams and schemes that can drain their life savings. That's why public awareness and enforcement of criminal and civil elder justice laws are as important as ever.

Many years ago, I convened congressional hearings in the Senate Special Committee on Aging that led to my policy focus on standards of care in our nation's nursing homes. At that time, I wrote legislation enacting transparency laws for the nursing home industry.

It authorized the federal agency that regulates Medicare and Medicaid to develop an online tool to compare facilities ranked by compliance with federal standards. Earlier this year, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I conducted more oversight hearings and learned about recent stories of abusive care and mistreatment in our nation's nursing homes.

An Iowan testified about the death of her mother in an Iowa facility that previously received a five-star rating from the federal agency regulating the industry. This story and too many others reveal inadequate enforcement of those who fail to meet quality standards of care. Comparison rankings are meaningless unless accountability is enforced.

According to the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of nursing home residents may experience harm while under the care of these facilities. That's unacceptable. I am developing additional reforms to improve this situation.

This annual outreach effort gives advocates the opportunity to turn up the volume on an important message for all Americans. Unless more Americans are educated and empowered to identify and report potential elder abuse, we will fail those who have raised the next generation and contributed a lifetime of service to their communities as taxpayers, volunteers, or members of the workforce, first response teams and the military.

Check in with a friend, neighbor or family member. And then, keep close tabs on that individual throughout the year.

Check in regularly to make sure their mental, physical and emotional well-being checks out.

Raising awareness and keeping in touch will help improve reporting and prevention of crimes against the elderly, including abuses in guardianship. Society owes a debt of gratitude to those who dedicate their lives to promote compassionate care for the aged and elder justice for victims, from adult protective services to health care, advocacy and criminal justice.

Q: What are potential signs of elder abuse or neglect?

A: Social isolation is one risk factor for victimization among older adults. For those who are able to volunteer, consider donating time and talent with an assisted living or nursing home facility to help seniors eat their meals, provide companionship, or read and participate with recreation activities.

The American Society on Aging advises all Americans to be alert for not only physical signs of abuse, such as bruising or malnourishment. Behavioral changes, including anger, fear and anxiety may point to neglect or exploitation. Creating a supportive, inclusive environment in our communities is essential to preventing elder abuse.

Q: Where should Iowans look to seek assistance for a loved one or report potential abuse?

A: Iowans looking for social services for older citizens may check the Eldercare Locator administered by the U.S. Administration on Aging, or call (800) 677-1116.

To report suspected elder abuse, call the hotline number operated around-the-clock by the state agency for Adult Protective Services at (800) 362-2178. Iowa operates long-term care ombudsman services in nine regions across the state.

Visit the Iowa Department of Aging locator to find the LTC ombudsman for your county. If someone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

 
 

 

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