TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee voted to release a package of bills, sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, that would create stronger laws to protect vulnerable senior citizens from financial exploitation, physical abuse and neglect.
“The Covid-19 public health crisis further exposed the unfortunate vulnerabilities of our seniors, especially those living in long-term care and residential facilities,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “We need to strengthen our laws to protect the health and financial interests of our most vulnerable residents. The state has a responsibility to help safeguard a senior’s life savings and physical well-being.”
The four bills in the package revise conservatorship (A4615) and guardianship (A4618) laws, require facilities to release financial disclosure information to residents (A4616), and make more people responsible for reporting abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult (A4620).
“Family members, caregivers, attorneys, and the courts can provide an extra layer of oversight to ensure a senior’s best interests are being met and they are not being swindled or neglected. This is especially important for seniors who are incapable of caring for themselves or unable to manage their affairs because of their health conditions,” said Dancer. “These bills will provide more accountability and give seniors and their loved ones the peace of mind that they so deserve.”
Both A4615 and A4618 encourage ethical conduct by those involved in protective arrangements and require reports by conservators and guardians that detail accounting expenditures, living conditions, medical care and more.
Financial improprieties would be more easily identified under A4616, which expands the types of facilities required to provide quarterly accounting statements to include dementia care homes, inpatient psychiatric facilities, and continuing care residential communities. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and comprehensive personal care homes are covered under current law.
Under A4620, any person who has reasonable cause to believe a vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited would be required to report it to protective services. The Department of Human Services would be required to publish on its website a registry of individuals found to have abused, neglected, or exploited a vulnerable adult.