OPENING STATEMENT FOR
SENATOR BARBARA MIKULSKI
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AGING -- ELDER ABUSE HEARING
MARCH 23, 1999
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing today on elder abuse. I'm pleased to especially welcome our colleague, Senator Wyden, and Detective Bob Fuecker, Elder Abuse Specialist with the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
Elder abuse can take many forms, whether it is neglect, mental, physical , or financial abuse. I sympathize with each and every senior and their family that has been a victim of abuse. There is absolutely no excuse. It is unconscionable that there are people who take advantage of our seniors. And yes, we must acknowledge that even family members who are caregivers and loved ones can take advantage of our elderly. The "National Elder Abuse Incidence Study Final Report" issued in September, 1998 by HHS found that in almost 90% of incidents with a known perpetrator, the perpetrator was a family member. It's horrible that seniors are betrayed by the people who are closest to them.
Other results of this study are deeply troubling, including: for every incident reported, between four and five went unreported; elderly women were abused at a higher rate than elderly men, even after accounting for their higher proportion of the aging population; and the oldest (80 and over) were abused at an even higher rate. This is appalling and unacceptable.
I believe that one of the important things we can do is protect our seniors from scams and scum. I'm talking about the cunning people who viciously prey on seniors to scam them out of their money, their assets, their homes, and their possessions. Whether it is a family member; high-tech fraud, like Internet scams and telemarketing with computers dialing seniors' phone numbers; or the old-fashioned scam in which you get the knock at your front door from someone selling phony insurance policies.
I am proud that Maryland has taken steps to crack down on scams against seniors. Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran established Maryland's first Senior Sting last year in which 500 seniors across the state collected their mail solicitations for a month. They collected over 10,000 pieces of mail, and about 40-45% were sweepstakes. About 10% were fraudulent, but many more were deceptive, confusing or misleading. Maryland is working with other states on several investigations of companies identified through the Senior Sting. Efforts like this are important because they educate seniors and provide evidence for possible investigation and prosecution of wrong-doing.Ê Maryland is also the site of a federal pilot program, which has recently been expanded nationwide, to train seniors to recognize and report Medicare fraud. The Maryland program, Curbing Abuse in Medicare and Medicaid (CAMM), trained 65 volunteers and reached 4,000 people through the media in its first nine months of operation.
The federal government can play an important role in preventing scams and abuse of seniors. We must be a resource and a line of defense. We must crack down on those who run operations to scam seniors. We need criminal background checks for long-term care employees and other workers who come into contact with seniors. We must make sure that nursing home and home health care standards are in place to ensure quality care, protect against abuses, and punish those who violate reasonable standards. Last, but certainly not least, we must educate seniors and provide resources where they can go for assistance, to ask questions or file complaints. We must make the information easy to understand and accessible to all seniors. The Long Term Care Ombudsman program in the Older Americans Act is an excellent example of this kind of resource and of the valuable role the federal government can play.