A new report aims to address the issue of elder abuse in Minnesota after the revelation of hundreds of cases of crime and neglect in the state’s senior care centers.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton asked AARP Minnesota to convene a consumer working group in response to a series of articles by the Minneapolis Star Tribune that detailed a crisis of elder abuse.
The report’s recommendations covered four key areas for action:
1. Strengthening and expanding the rights of older and vulnerable adults and their families
2. Enhancing criminal and civil enforcement of rights
3. Developing new licensure frameworks for assisted living and dementia care in residential settings
4. Improving the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) licensing regulation, the Office of Health Facility Complaints (OHFC) enforcement and investigations, and the reporting system for the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC).
Gaps in Minnesota Law
“Critical gaps and inequalities exist in current laws designed to safeguard Minnesota’s older and vulnerable adults from abuse and to provide other vital consumer rights,” the report said in addressing the need to expand and bolster older adult rights. “These gaps exist despite the fact that there are many laws already on the books designed to protect older and vulnerable adults.”
The group made several recommendations to address this, including establishing the right of older adults and their families to know about abuse, strengthening protections in Minnesota law against retaliation when an adult or family member reports a violation of rights, and consolidating laws regarding the rights of older adults across care settings.
The report also discussed the shortcomings of criminal enforcement, which AARP Minnesota said lets cases fall through the cracks. The state’s criminal code, for example, does not let prosecutors charge abusers to the fourth degree with a gross misdemeanor if no “demonstrable bodily harm” is experienced by an older adult.
Reassessing How to Handle Abuse Reports
The OHFC reported an eye-popping 600% increase in maltreatment reports since 2010 during the 2017 legislative session. But it was only able to investigate 1% of 20,791 reports from providers and 10% of 3,491 reports from individuals, the working group report said.
“Currently, law enforcement experiences delays in receiving report referrals from OHFC,” it read. “Criminal investigations must be conducted as quickly as possible to assure that interviews are timely, crime scenes are preserved, and evidence remains fresh.”
The working group stakeholders included the AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter, Elder Voice Family Advocates, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and the Minnesota Elder Justice Center.
Written by Maggie Flynn