More support coming to prevent elder abuse, exploitation in RI


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A task force designed to protect elderly Rhode Islanders is asking state lawmakers to address the prevalence of financial abuse among seniors and vulnerable adults.

The Special Task Force to Study Elderly Abuse and Financial Exploitation released its final report Friday that provides recommendations on new policies and legislation that would educate seniors and prevent others from taking advantage of them.

The task force was formed in 2018 at the request of the Rhode Island AARP. The group – consisting of several organizations including the RI State Police, the Attorney General’s office and the RI Division of Elderly Affairs – studies the prevalence and impact of elder abuse and financial exploitation in the state.

“The number of Americans age 65 and older is projected to more than double by more than 2060, and the National Council on Aging reports that one in ten Americans age 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse,” Task Force Chairwoman Sen. Cynthia Coyne said.

Coyne recognized two pieces of legislation the General Assembly recently approved that align with the task force’s priorities.

One bill expands a law that requires people who have reasonable cause to believe a person over the age of 60 is being abused, neglected or mistreated to report it to the Division of Elderly Affairs, which will report the incident to law enforcement if appropriate.

The other bill requires a nationwide criminal background check for anyone seeking guardianship or limited guardianship of another adult.

The task force also made several other suggestions, including supporting programs that educate seniors (including the Division of Elderly Affairs), exploring potential federal grant opportunities to fund increased monitoring, data collection and education within the state’s guardianship program and changing the definition of an “elderly person” within existing state law so that all definitions align.

“With technology changes, with people living longer, we want to make sure that our Rhode Island seniors are well cared for and are given the resources that they need and the education they need to better protect themselves and their families,” Coyne said.

The task force will meet again in the fall where they will discuss a survey distributed to all 39 probate courts in the state, designed to collect data on the status of the guardianship program and to assess if any further recommendations are needed with regard to monitoring.

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