In 2011, elder abuse was brought to the forefront of the media’s attention when beloved entertainer, Mickey Rooney, became yet another victim of elder abuse
proclaiming to the Supreme Court of the United States, “If elder abuse can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.”
The Obliviousness of the Federal Government
Yet, despite this growing epidemic of abuse, approximately 6 million cases nationally every year, the government seems to be neglecting offering any support, research, or progress- burying their heads in the sand under budget crisis and campaign promises. Although Obama passed the Elder Justice Act almost two years ago, congress has still failed to provide ANY funding, leaving another empty promise on the table. According to Robert Blancato, of the Elder Justice Coalition in a Huffington Post article,
older voters represent about 23% of the voting population, a segment that politicians cannot afford to ignore. Mr. Blancato also states that the amount of funding needed to ignite the Elder Justice Act is just “5% of what was recovered last year by the federal government in fraud and waste in Medicare and Medicaid.”
Despite the national stalemate, locally, elder abuse was addressed in 2011. The Circuit Court of Cook County announced the formation of a new division known as Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies
to specifically address cases of elder abuse. Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, created an Elder Abuse Task Force to investigate cases of elder abuse as well. Also, due to rampant financial exploitation, Illinois revised the powers of attorney forms, to expand protection for the principal (often seniors) from financial exploitation and elevate the standard of care and expectations of the agent. Elder aaw attornies are taking a lead in informing older adults about their rights and protecting them from abuse.
Although the nation is cutting back due to a shaky economy and an overwhelming budget deficit
, we cannot push aside such a prevalent issue that is affecting each and every family. Even with the terrifying statistics I stated above, Dr. Mark Lachs, Director of Geriatrics for the New York Presbyterian Healthcare System, points out in an article in AARP, “For every case that is reported, some two dozen go undetected.” The only way we can begin to combat these cases and get the funding, staffing, education and legislation we need is through Federal support and recognition that this IS an issue that must be addressed, and before 2013 rolls around.