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.
Legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to protect seniors with dementia from harm and exploitation has been signed into law. The Promoting Alzheimer's Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act will ensure that the Department of Justice’s elder abusetraining materials take into account individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The bipartisan bill passed Congress unanimously earlier this month.
“As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of my top priorities is protecting our seniors against abuse,” said Senator Collins, a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be increased risk for elder abuse, including elder financial exploitation. 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.”
“I watched my mother struggle and ultimately succumb to Alzheimer’s, and it pains me that a growing number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s and dementia are at risk of potential abuse, neglect and exploitation,” said Sen. Menendez. “I am thrilled that our legislation has now become law. With it, we can help ensure that those suffering with AD/ADRD are able to live with dignity in safe and healthy environments, while providing critical education and training to caregivers, health providers and law enforcement.”
“We ought to do all we can to ensure the Justice Department is well-prepared to respond to crimes involving Alzheimer’s patients and folks with other forms of dementia. These cases can be particularly challenging at each stage, from investigation to prosecution. This legislation will strengthen our collective response to these crimes, which are unfortunately all too common. I’m glad, with the bill now signed into law, that the government can now more effectively handle and address these problems,” Senator Grassley said.
The legislation was supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, Elder Justice Coalition, American Geriatrics Society, American Society on Aging, B’nai B’rith International,Gerontological Society of America, International Association for Indigenous Aging, Jewish Federations of North America, Justice in Aging, LEAD Coalition (Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease), National Adult Protective Services Association, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A), National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, and SAGE: Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders.
“On behalf of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s I want to thank Senators Collins, Menendez, and Grassley for their leadership on this critical bill,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) executive director. “The bipartisan Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act will help protect our nation’s most vulnerable from abuse and lead to better outcomes for all people living with dementia.”
Specifically, the Promoting Alzheimer's Awareness to Prevent Elder AbuseAct will:
· 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 law 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.