AARP Georgia applauded the Georgia General Assembly for taking steps to strengthen legal protection for seniors in the 2013 legislative session that concluded today.
But it also chided the assembly for reducing funding for protections already in place.
“House Bill 78 is a huge win for seniors,” said Greg Tanner, state director for AARP Georgia, which is headquartered in Atlanta. “The bill passed unanimously in both houses. That speaks volumes about the need to protect Georgia’s seniors from neglect, physical abuse, and financial exploitation. We applaud the assembly for its overwhelming support for the measure.”
As the same time, Tanner expressed AARP Georgia’s disappointment that full funding for Adult Protective Services wasn’t restored. “HB 78 increases reporting of elder abuse, but unfortunately the budget cuts positions in Adult Protective Services. These are the people who help when elders are abused. This seems very shortsighted.”
The bill known in legislative shorthand as HB 78 makes it a felony if any person knowingly and willfully exploits a disabled adult or elder. It also increases the number of people required by law to report abuse.
Other important wins for seniors during the session include:
• The tabling of Senate Bill 202 which, senior advocates feared, would make it easier for nursing homes to sign patients and their families to binding arbitration, giving up their rights to a jury trial in the event of abuse, neglect or harm.
• Passage of House Bill 454. The bill, which passed both houses unanimously, strengthens the state’s annual tax spending report. Under the new law, the report can be expanded to include more detailed analysis of economic tax breaks to determine the cost/benefit tradeoff, a measure that AARP believes can lead to greater accountability for tax concessions.
• Restored funding in the state budget for Alzheimer’s services and respite care services. These vital services allow the elderly to remain in their homes and communities. They do so by supporting the caregivers – usually family – who provide care for those seniors that choose to remain at home.
• Restored half the funding for the state’s Adult Protective Services. Recent research indicates that up to 14 percent of at-risk adults – usually women, the very old or those with dementia – experience abuse, neglect or exploitation annually in community living settings.