May is Older Americans Month in America, and it is therefore timely that Governor Steve Beshear today signed into law two bills aimed at better protecting adults and seniors from abuse and exploitation in Kentucky. “Protecting vulnerable seniors from exploitation and abuse must be a priority for all of us, and it is a priority of mine,” said Gov. Beshear. “Today, with these new laws, we take a step forward in safeguarding our seniors.”
- House Bill 52 prevents people who abuse or neglect vulnerable or elderly adults from benefiting from their deaths and bars people convicted of felony abuse or exploitation of an adult from serving as that victim’s guardian, executor or power of attorney. The measure also establishes a trust fund to provide funding for programs combating elder and vulnerable adult abuse.
- House Bill 164 will make it easier and more efficient for adults and seniors needing a guardian when more than one state is involved.
The bills were part of Gov. Beshear’s larger “Safeguarding our Seniors” initiative to keep at-risk adults and the elderly safe and healthy. “While I am disappointed that the other bills in this package did not pass, my administration will not give up on our charge to keep vulnerable adults and seniors safe from physical, mental and financial abuse and neglect,” he said.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Secretary Janie Miller said the new laws address issues that all communities are facing. “These new laws enhance my agency’s efforts, and we share Gov. Beshear’s vision for safe aging in Kentucky,” said Secretary Miller.
“House Bill 52 closed a loophole in the current law and will prevent anyone who abuses or neglects an elderly person or vulnerable adult from benefiting financially from those actions,” said Rep. Joni Jenkins, of Shively. “This bill is long overdue and I am proud to be the sponsor of such important legislation.”
“HB 164 is important legislation that will allow state guardians to do business on behalf of a ward of another state as long as that state also has the uniform code,” said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, of Louisville. “This will allow financial matters to be handled in a more timely and prudent manner. It will also permit discussion of personal matters with the appointed state guardian so that the wards’ needs are adequately met. I am thankful that I was able to sponsor this legislation and grateful to the Governor for signing it into law.”
Gov. Beshear also repeated his commitment to include funding for an adult abuse registry in his 2012 budget proposal, even though the legislature did not create such a registry this session. “We will keep working to establish an adult elder abuse registry for the Commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said. “It’s the best way to identify perpetrators when adult or elder abuse has been substantiated, but doesn’t reach a criminal level, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Last year, Gov. Beshear ordered a multi-agency review—coordinated by CHFS—that resulted in a comprehensive report on the Protection of Nursing Home Residents. The Cabinet has implemented many recommendations included in the report, and has revived the Elder Abuse Committee to continue the vital collaboration between agencies and stakeholders to enhance efforts to protect Kentucky’s seniors. The state also joined the national Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation Prevention Program, in which states work with medical professionals to detect cases in which older Americans either are being scammed or are in danger of being ripped off by an investment con artist.