While the U.S. Congress has created laws addressing child abuse and crimes against women, not a single piece of legislation dealing directly with abuse of elderly persons has ever been passed. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hopes to change that with passage of his bill S. 2010, the Elder Justice Act of 2005
"Although the number of older Americans is growing at a rapid pace, thousands of cases of elder abuse go unaddressed every day," Sen. Hatch told the Senate. "The problem of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation has long been invisible and is probably one of the most serious issues facing seniors and their families."
The Elder Justice Act of 2005 would:
Fund research on comprehensive approaches to abuse detection and prevention;
Promote coordination of federal, state and local efforts through the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice;
Support efforts to enhance capacity to discover and hold abusers and other violators accountable;
Provide for long term care staff training and preventive security measures to protect individuals receiving long-term care, including the establishment of a national nurse aide registry and national criminal background checks; and
Authorize funds for training and to establish a clearinghouse to empower professionals, researchers and consumers in finding solutions to elder abuse.
In introducing S. 2010 to Congress, Sen. Hatch stated, "Few pressing social issues have been as systematically ignored as elder abuse. In fact, 25 years of congressional hearings on the devastating effects of elder abuse have found this problem to be a 'disgrace' and a 'burgeoning national scandal.' Yet, to date, no federal legislation has been enacted to address elder abuse in a comprehensive manner."
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that between 500,000 and 5 million seniors in our country are abused, neglected, or exploited. Sadly, most cases of elder abuse go unreported.
According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, as of July 1, 2004, 12 percent of all Americans were 65 and over. By 2050, people 65 and over will comprise an impressive 21 percent of the U.S. population.
Though referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, The Elder Justice Act of 2005 failed to be considered by the full Senate before the end of the current session of Congress. Look for Sen. Hatch to reintroduce the bill shortly after the second session of the 109th Congress opens on January 3.