(Washington) -- Iowa Senator Charles Grassley is among those in Congress calling for a crackdown on elder abuse crimes in the country.
Witnesses of loved ones impacted by abuse incidents testified at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington Wednesday morning. Among the witnesses: Pat Blank, longtime Iowa Public Radio host, and past winner of the Iowa Broadcast News Association's Jack Shelley Award. Blank's mother, Virginia Olthoff, died in an Iowa nursing home in February of last year due to alleged neglect. Another witness was Maya Fischer, whose 87-year-old mother--an Alzheimer's patient--was allegedly raped by a nursing aide. In each case, Grassley says the victim's trust was betrayed by the individuals entrusted to care and protect them.
"Sadly, these are not isolated cases," said Grassley. "They could happen to anyone. According to the Inspector General, a whopping one-third of nursing home residents experience harm while under the care of federally-funded facilities. And, in more than half of these cases, the harm was preventable."
Grassley sponsored the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, a new federal law calling for the training of elder abuse investigators, the collection of data on elder abuse, and collaboration among federal officials tasked with combating seniors' exploitation. Despite the bill's passage in the last session of Congress, Grassley says the work in this area isn't done.
"Hardly a week goes by without seeing something about nursing home abuse or neglect in the national news," he said. "Every family has a loved one--a mother, a father or a grandparent--who may someday need nursing home care. That makes this a topic of enormous concern to every American."
Grassley cites the Inspector General's alert issued two years ago, warning the public about deficiencies cited at nursing homes in 33 states. A significant amount of the cases involved sexual abuse, substandard care and neglect. As finance committee chair, Grassley says he'll continue to ensure the elderly have access to quality long-term care in an environment "free from abuse and neglect."