Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More Seniors Facing Abuse

By Jennifer Frazerrep8@wyomingnews.com

CHEYENNE - In Sublette County, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard in February, a blind, deaf man who could barely walk and was under the care of his son arrived at a hospital covered in bruises.The bruising, however, was not the medical condition that had brought him there, and it soon became apparent they were the result of his son, who verbally attacked him as well.

"The focus (for child protective services workers) is on children, and they work their tails off and do a great job," said Tim Summers, a spokesman for AARP Wyoming, "but the focus is clearly on children."

And nationally, experts estimate 84 percent of vulnerable adult abuse cases are never reported, and as many as 5 million seniors are abused each year.

Loopholes and omissions in the present law are part of the problem. Many cases of intimidation and exploitation are going unprosecuted because of them.

And due to weak language, many financial abuses are going unpunished.

That bothered Rep. Colin Simpson, R-Cody, who contacted AARP to ask what could be done."This crime is increasing rapidly," Simpson said of financial exploitation to the Judiciary Committee last month. "I see it more and more in my constituents and my clients, where someone is just stealing from someone else. It's a significant problem."

Together, they crafted House Bill 300, passed this session and signed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal this month. It goes into effect July 1.

Still, more can be done, and may be done in the future.

Abridged, bold mine for emphasis

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