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Senator outlines bill to protect seniors from abusive guardians

The concept of the family is not what it used to be in this country. Chances are it's likely to change even more in the years to come, especially as the senior population continues to grow here in New Jersey and the rest of the country.

Where families are solid and relatives abound clear plans to ensure that aging loved ones have appropriate, supportive care for the full course of their lives may be easily laid out through effective estate planning. However, there are many individuals who have no one to turn to. They have neither friends nor relatives.

Their numbers are growing and that's increasing demand for court-appointed guardians. And that, in turn, according to the government, is increasing reported instances of abuse and neglect of elder and disabled individuals.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is attempting to address the issue through the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act (S.F. 1744). The Minnesota Democrat told a recent community roundtable in her home state that the need for the law is clear. She points to a recent General Accounting Office study that identified hundreds of allegations of physical abuse and fiscal exploitation by guardians in 45 states and Washington, D.C. She says the GAO report highlighted 20 selected cases in which guardians raked assets from 158 vulnerable victims to the tune of nearly $5.5 million.

Under her bill, states would get federal money to help improve state court procedures regarding adult guardianship and conservatorship. And, since only 13 states now require background checks on those who step forward to serve as guardians and conservators, the measure would set up a pilot program to advance such checks. The measure also would encourage states to start leveraging technology to track and hold guardians and conservators more accountable.

The measure has been introduced. It's unclear if there is a companion House bill.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, "Klobuchar's bill aims to protect seniors, vulnerable people," Steve Kuchera, Jan. 7, 2012

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