What Is the Elder Justice Act?
The National Center of Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as “any knowing, intended or careless act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older person – physically, mentally, emotionally or financially.” A National Institute of Justice study showed that nearly 11% of Americans 60 years of age and older faced some type of elder abuse in the past 12 months. Often, the victims are abused by family or others close to them either in home settings or in care facilities. The Elder Justice Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It provides federal resources to “prevent, detect, treat, understand, intervene in and, where appropriate, prosecute elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.”
Requirements of Department of Health & Human Services in the Elder Justice Act
The act requires that the Department of Health and Human Services oversee the development and management of federal resources for protecting our seniors from elder abuse. In part, the act requires the following:
- Establishment of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council
- Establishment of an Advisory Board on Elder Abuse
- Establishment of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Forensic Centers
- Enhancement of Long-Term Care
- Funding to state and local adult protective service offices
- Grants for long-term care ombudsmen programs and for evaluation of programs
- Programs to provide training
- Grants to state agencies to perform surveys of care and nursing facilities.
These efforts focus on education, research, leadership and guidance in establishing programs to stop elder abuse. Additionally, the Elder Justice Acts directs the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) toward actions to prevent elder abuse.
Requirements of the Department of Justice in the Elder Justice Act
The prosecution of abusers has been a challenge. As part of the Elder Justice Act, the Department of Justice is tasked with dedicating resources, studying and evaluating existing laws, and providing grants to local and state agencies. Their directives include:
- Develop objectives, priorities, policies and long-term plans for elder justice programs
- Conduct a study of state laws and practices relating to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation
- Make available grants to develop training and support programs for law enforcement and other first responders, prosecutors, judges, court personnel and victim advocates
- Ensure that DOJ dedicates sufficient resources to the investigation and prosecution of cases relating to elder justice
Studies have shown that victims of financial exploitation, elder abuse or neglect have been found to have three times the risk of dying prematurely. Reported incidents of abuse in care facilities, both long term and daycare, have skyrocketed in the past decade. The Elder Justice Act creates a nationwide database and program for background checks for the employees of care facilities. The act also requires that any elder abuse perpetrated in a long-term care facility be reported immediately to law enforcement.
Combating Financial Crimes of Elder Abuse
Seniors are often vulnerable to local, national and even international scams that target their investments, homes, money and other assets. The aging population needs education on what to verify before providing anyone with access to their accounts for any reason. Under The Elder Justice Act, grants are available to state and community agencies to create and promote awareness programs that focus on scams, online fraud and abuse.
Before the Elder Justice Act was enacted, federal funding for programs and justice regulations was not available. Now, community education, awareness campaigns, training for law enforcement personnel, and Adult Protective Services are available to millions of seniors across the U.S. While much research, training, education and implementation of programs still needs to take place, the Elder Justice Act is the first step toward creating a better, safer world for our senior community.
For more information please visit USC’s online masters of gerontology programs.
 The Elder Justice Coalition. Retrieved July 22, 2012 from: http://www.elderjusticecoalition.com
 BIFOCAL, Stiegel, Lori A., March-April 2010. Vol. 31, No. 4. “Elder Abuse Prevention: Elder Justice Act Becomes Law, But Victory Is Only Partial”. Retrieved July 22, 2012 from: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/aging/PublicDocuments/eja_act_art_prtl.authcheckdam.pdf
[3,4] American Psychological Association. The Elder Justice Act (S.1070/H.R. 1783). Retrieved July 22, 2012 from: http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/aging/elder-justice-facts.aspx