Seniors advocate group says nationwide hotline is overdue
By Josh Charnes, CNN Senior Reporter
A seniors advocacy group is calling for a national hotline for abuse and neglect of seniors amid a growing number of reported incidents.
The Healthcare for America Now, formerly called AARP, says there’s been an uptick in reported incidents of abuse and neglect by family members against members of their aging parents’ and grandparents’ caretakers.
“We have over a million frail and vulnerable seniors living in elder-care facilities and their families – some who are elderly themselves – are increasingly neglecting them,” said Max Richtman, CEO of Healthcare for America Now, or HAZN.
The organization says a recent survey of more than 1,200 households revealed 86% of caretakers did not know what legal protections were in place. The group says some of the respondents said they covered up abuse by reporting it to a family member who was allowed to make care decisions for them.
Beverly Lieberman, CEO of The National Network to End Domestic Violence, says a hotline could make it easier for caregivers to report and educate family members about laws that might protect their elderly relatives.
In addition, the group says the hotline is critical in preventing further abuse of seniors living in their homes.
“There are about 25 million seniors in our country living in nursing homes or in assisted living facilities, which is the most vulnerable population,” Lieberman said. “A lot of them do not know it is illegal, they are afraid and when you add to that a lack of information from caregivers, they become more vulnerable.”
Healthcare for America Now is calling on the federal government to create the hotline, along with identifying resources to help report abuse. The group says there is not even a central database to help identify abuse cases, which creates a huge problem.
Lieberman, who has worked in the field for more than 30 years, says the past couple of years has seen an increase in seniors killed in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The group has begun compiling data and plans to release its findings in early November. It says many members of Congress are working to create a hotline but it won’t be easy.
“I think there is an interest in this, but when you look at who will run it, there really isn’t a group of people who have an interest in seniors,” Lieberman said. “I think they’re also very political because the federal government has to do everything in its power to try to get Medicare and Medicaid legislation through at all costs.”
CNN/WBAL contributed to this report.