Washington, D.C.— Approximately one in 10 seniors aged 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse . For people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, the prevalence is much higher, with some estimates putting it at just over 50 percent.
In an effort to protect seniors with dementia from harm and exploitation, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Promoting Alzheimer's Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). Senator Collins is a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease.
This bipartisan legislation would ensure that the Department of Justice’s elder abuse training materials take into account individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
“As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of my top priorities is protecting our seniors against abuse,” said Senator Collins. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be increased risk for elder abuse, including elder financial exploitation. Our bipartisan bill would 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.”
“Since the COVID-19 crisis began, we’ve seen a huge increase in fraudsters taking advantage of the fear and confusion surrounding the virus to prey upon Americans, especially vulnerable seniors like those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Senator Menendez. “The fact is, as the number of Americans struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia continues to grow, so does the potential for financial exploitation, physical or emotional abuse, and neglect. We introduced this bill because we need to do more to provide the education caregivers, social service and health providers, law enforcement and others need to fully understand the cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have, as well as the training necessary to protect them from fraud and ensure they can live safely and with dignity.”
“The current public health crisis has given seniors and caregivers across the country enough to worry about. The additional risks of scams, abuse and exploitation ought to be something the federal government can help address. This bill will provide resources and information to the professionals dealing with these risks. And it will require the Justice Department to track these incidents so we can prevent them in the future,” Senator Grassley said.
The legislation has been endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) as well as the bipartisan, 3,000 member Elder Justice Coalition.
“On behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), I’d like to thank Sens. Collins, Menendez, and Grassley for their leadership in introducing the bipartisan Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and AIM executive director. “This important legislation will not only help protect the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia from elder abuse, it will also help improve the quality of interactions with the professionals seeking to support them."
EJC National Coordinator Bob Blancato added, “Elder abuse committed against a person with Alzheimer’s disease is a compound tragedy. It is critical we provide the necessary training materials to anyone who responds, investigates or prosecutes such cases which this bill will do. We also support the provisions calling on the Department of Justice to consult with all relevant stakeholders to make sure these training materials are the most appropriate they can be. This is both sensible and sensitive legislation and we commend Senator Collins for taking such a strong lead by authoring this bill.”
Specifically, the Promoting Alzheimer's Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act would:
- Require that the National Elder Justice Coordinator take into account people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias when creating or compiling elder abuse training materials;
- Instruct DOJ to consult with stakeholders, as appropriate, in developing these materials and to review and update existing materials; and
- Include information in DOJ’s annual report about where to access the publicly available training materials.
The bill builds on the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which became law in October 2017 and required DOJ to create training materials to help criminal justice, health care, and social services personnel assess and respond to elder abuse cases. It also aligns with the latest recommendations from the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which include disseminating information on abuse of those with dementia and educating law enforcement about interacting with these individuals.