New laws to protect the fast-growing number of seniors in Washington state are in the works as the result of a yearlong initiative to ease identification, prevention and prosecution of abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults, the Seattle Times reports. Recommendations from nearly 100 people in fields such as law enforcement, social work, and financial services were distilled into five recommendations for new laws, including increasing the punishment for those convicted of crimes against people over 65, requiring employees of financial institutions to report suspected financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, improving coordination between government agencies, and better disclosure of government information, including a database where consumers can search for names of abusers.
Attorney General Rob McKenna, who initiated the effort, cited a “steady increase in the frequency with which fraud-related cases involve the exploitation and abuse of older adults.” Sharon Merriman-Nai of the National Center on Elder Abuse in Newark, De., said lawmakers across the U.S. have struggled since the late 1970s to craft comprehensive solutions to protect elderly and vulnerable adults, with mixed results. No one has a good handle on the most common type of abuse and who commits it. “Family members are frequently the abusers,” she said. In 2006, Washington state agencies received more than 13,000 abuse reports involving elderly or vulnerable adults.