Ozarks Lawyer Testifies In Washington Committee Hearing On Elder Abuse

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – An Ozarks attorney got the opportunity Wednesday to tell a congressional committee about what the federal government and states can do to prevent financial exploitation of the elderly.

Ozarks Elder Law Attorney Jessica Kruse was asked by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to talk about abuse from those appointed as guardians or conservators.
           
Guardians or conservators are appointed by courts when an elderly person no longer has the ability to manage their financial affairs or healthcare — and in many cases, the abusers are family members.

“Watching this process was really eye-opening and it really gave me hope that there are people who really do care about these issues,” Kruse said.

“The witness, Mrs. Kruse from Springfield did a great job talking about the work that she does in this area and some of the reforms that would be important for the federal government to look at that could be helpful protecting the elderly, who sometimes have no one working on their behalf except someone that is trying to take advantage of them,” McCaskill said.

Kruse said there is a lack of concrete data tracking elder abuse and resources for local court systems to identify red flags.

“In some counties where resources are low and there aren’t enough people that take the time to look at each item of the accounting, those things aren’t being caught,” Kruse said. “The only thing that’s being caught is what the accounting balance is at the end of the year.”

McCaskill said her committee also learned government agencies need to do a better job of sharing information.

“You could have someone who is disqualified from receiving an elderly person’s social security check because of their behavior, but they could continue to serve as their guardian for other matters because the state has no idea that this fraud had happened,” Kruse said.

“Be watchful of the people that you encounter on a daily basis that are elderly,” Kruse said. “Watch who is starting to hang around all of the sudden and are they trying to isolate that person.”

While the government can do more to sharpen its tools, Kruse said the elderly’s best resource is the people they are surrounded by every day.

Minnesota has developed software which requires guardians and conservators to report financial information and makes it subject to audit. McCaskill said other states could put the software in place to better track financial exploitation of the elderly.      
 

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