Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would strengthen protections for seniors against abuse and fraud through court-appointed guardians and conservators.
The Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act would protect seniors and persons with disabilities from neglet and financial exploitation by improving oversight and accountability for guardians and conservators at state and federal levels.
“While the vast majority of court-appointed guardians are undoubtedly professional, well-meaning and law-abiding, there is mounting evidence that some guardians use their position of power for their own gain, at the expense of the very people they were supposed to be looking out for,” said Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who introduced the bill along with Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
The legislation would provide support to states to implement programs to increase oversight of long-term caregivers, and calls for state courts to assess the handling of proceedings relating to guardianship and conservatives before making recommendations for best practices.
It would also help state courts implement an electronic filing system and a pilot program to conduct national and state criminal background checks in order to better monitor, report and audit conservatorships sand guardianships.
In 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report identifying hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation by guardians in 45 states and D.C. that had occurred in the previous 20 years. In 20 of those cases that GAO reviewed, guardians had stolen or improperly obtained $5.4 million from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were older adults.
In a recent hearing on guardian abuse chaired by Klobuchar in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, the senator called for more accountability and oversight of court-appointed guardians to ensure seniors’ safety and proper care.
Written by Alyssa Gerace