Daily Court Reporter - News Proposed bill aims to reduce abuse of elderly in Ohio
Proposed bill aims to reduce abuse of elderly in Ohio
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Outdated definitions and insufficient reporting requirements have prompted a southwest Ohio lawmaker to propose a legislative measure to enhance Ohio's adult protective services to protect some of the state's most vulnerable citizens.
Citing National Council of Aging estimates of 5 million older adults suffering abuse annually, Republican Rep. Wes Retherford of Hamilton told members of the House Aging and Long Term Care Committee during a recent first hearing that elder abuse can happen to anyone.
"Elder abuse can happen anywhere - next door or at your local nursing home," Retherford said. "Across the state of Ohio, older Ohioans are being victimized through violence, manipulation and fraud.
"That is why I have joined Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in supporting House Bill 78."
The bill is a reboot of House Bill 24 introduced during the 131st General Assembly of the Ohio Legislature.
The previous iteration of the bill, which cleared the House, stalled in a Senate committee after a substitute bill was accepted.
"First, we acknowledged that the state's current definitions pertaining to elder abuse are significantly outdated," the lawmaker said. "When originally crafted, elder abuse statutes focused on physical abuse.
"However, in our society we increasingly see elderly individuals who are exploited financially."
The bill retains the existing definition of abuse - the infliction upon an older adult by self or others of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or cruel punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish - but modifies the definitions of neglect and exploitation.
Under existing law, neglect means the failure of an older adult to provide for himself or herself the goods or services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness or the failure of a caretaker to provide such goods or services.
House Bill 78 would add abandonment as another form of neglect.
Similarly, exploitation is defined as the unlawful or improper act of a person using, in one or more transactions, an older adult or an older adult's resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain when the person obtained or exerted control over the older adult or resources without the older adult's consent, beyond the scope of the older adult's consent, or by deception, threat, or intimidation, bill analysis provided.
"Second, we acknowledged the state lacks the proper reporting requirements to accurately track elder abuse and identify patterns of abuse, as well as provide support to the individuals on the front lines who are charged with protecting our seniors," Retherford continued. "Our legislation will create a registry to help identify reported patterns of elder abuse."
This would allow the state to accurately monitor and track the abuse of senior citizens and develop programming for ongoing, comprehensive training for protective service caseworkers.
Finally, HB 78 would codify DeWine's Elder Abuse Commission as a means of increasing awareness and research of elder abuse, work to improve public policy, funding and programming and improve the judicial response to elder abuse victims.
Based upon a pair of studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, elders who experience abuse, neglect, or self-neglect face considerably higher risk of premature death than those who do not.
Retherford also cited research that suggested this sort of abuse is significantly under identified and under reported, with as few as one in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities.
"As we continue to care for the Greatest Generation and as the Baby Boomer generation reaches 65, it is imperative that we promote awareness of elder abuse and establish safeguards that protect our loved ones," he concluded.
Fifteen fellow House members signed on as cosponsors to HB 78, which had not been scheduled for further hearing as of publication.
Date Published: March 27, 2017