The US Senate and elder abuse

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While US legislation can often be tortuous and Dickensian, there is one feature that stands out compared to our approach to legislation.  Many pieces of US legislation have a section called the “Findings” and the “Sense“. It is meant to set out what the legislators are thinking in introducing the legislation and to give it some context. In Australia, as legislation is not seen as an appropriate vehicle for sweeping statements or aspirations, we would call it something less evocative, such as a Preamble.

Earlier this year, for example, legislation was introduced into the US Senate entitled the “Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act”. The ‘Findings‘ and ‘Sense‘ of the Senate set out in that legislation make interesting reading:

FINDINGS – The Senate finds the following:-

  • The vast majority of cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults in the United States go unidentified and unreported.
  • Not less than $2,900,000,000.00 (yes that’s $2.9 billion) is taken from older adults each year due to financial abuse and exploitation.
  • Elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation have no boundaries and cross all racial, social, class, gender, and geographic lines.
  • Older adults who are abused are 3 times more likely to die earlier than older adults of the same age who are not abused.
  • Up to half of all older adults with dementia will experience abuse.

SENSE OF THE SENATE – It is the sense of the Senate that:-

  • Elder abuse involves the exploitation of potentially vulnerable individuals with devastating physical, mental, emotional, and financial consequences to the victims and their loved ones;
  • To combat this affront to America’s older adults, we must do everything possible to both support victims of elder abuse and prevent the abuse from occurring in the first place; and
  • The Senate supports a multipronged approach to prevent elder abuse and exploitation, protect the victims of elder abuse and exploitation from further harm, and bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice.

Wonder when our politicians will see sense?


Brian Herd

Recognised as one of the leading experts in Australia on elder law, aged care, retirement, estate planning and disability and a regular author, broadcaster and popular presenter on many elder law subjects and issues.