Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On a Resolution Commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2019
Thursday, June 13, 2019
I’d like to call your attention to an issue that has affected many families in Iowa and throughout the country: elder abuse and neglect.
Many older Americans reside in assisted care facilities, nursing homes or other kinds of group living arrangements. It’s critical that these care facilities and staff not only follow the law, but provide the type of care they would want their own family members to receive.
The Des Moines Register last year published reports suggesting a troubling lack of compassionate care for elder residents in some of the nursing homes in my state. Reports also surfaced in 2017 of nursing home workers in at least 18 different facilities taking humiliating, unauthorized photos of elderly residents and posting them on social media websites.
Earlier this year, I convened an oversight hearing at which we heard from the daughters of two elderly women who resided in federally funded nursing homes. One testified that her mother, an Iowan, died due to neglect, in a facility that held the highest possible rating, five stars, on a Federal government website. The family discovered that the nursing home was the subject of multiple complaint investigations in recent years. Yet after each complaint, government inspectors reported that the facility had come back, “into substantial compliance with program requirements.” Another witness testified about her mother’s rape in a nursing home. These and similar cases around the country point to the need for reforms.
By one estimate, 1 in 10 persons older than the age of 60 will fall victim to elder abuse each year. And according to the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of nursing home residents may experience harm while under the care of these facilities.
In more than half of these cases, the harm was preventable. That’s why statutes like the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which I championed in the last Congress, the Older Americans Act, which promotes seniors’ independence and the Elder Justice Act, which I have long supported, are so important.
Yesterday, I introduced a resolution designating June 15th as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
I’d like to thank my lead cosponsor, Senator Blumenthal, for joining me in introducing this resolution. The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee as well as the leaders of the Senate Aging Committee, Senators Collins and Casey, along with Senators Lankford and Hassan, also are original cosponsors.
This bipartisan resolution recognizes those adult protective services and health care personnel, ombudsmen, criminal justice personnel and advocates who help prevent and combat elder abuse in communities around the country. It calls for us to promote awareness and long-term prevention of elder abuse.
Congress has a key role to play in ensuring the protection of seniors. Years ago, I joined my colleagues in developing an early version of the Elder Justice Act. It is time to update and extend the key programs authorized under this important law, which authorized the Elder Justice Council and resources to support forensic centers to investigate elder abuse, among other initiatives. I am working closely with the members of the Elder Justice Coalition on legislation to accomplish that goal. It’s also time for us to update and extend the Older Americans Act, which I’ve long supported. As Finance Committee chairman, I intend to convene a hearing to discuss ways we can continue to promote the health and wellbeing of seniors, which is an issue I’ve always cared about.
Creating a supportive, inclusive environment in our communities is essential to preventing elder abuse and that is what World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is all about. I urge my colleagues to join me in raising awareness for the most vulnerable among us, protecting our loved ones and empowering all citizens to take a stand against elder abuse.