Two pieces of legislation introduced at the federal level aim to support affordable senior housing residents and providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ensure that elder abuse training materials include individuals with dementia.

Katie Smith Sloan, president and chief executive officer of LeadingAge, praised a bill introduced by Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) that would bring $1.2 billion of relief to the 1.6 million older adults who live in affordable senior housing communities and the providers serving them. 

The “Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020” incorporates key LeadingAge requests for relief, Sloan said in a statement.

The bill would provide $845 million for the HUD Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program program, including additional staff and personal protective equipment; $300 million for service coordinator grants to prevent, prepare for or respond to public health emergencies related to COVID-19; and $50 million for wireless internet services. 

“While federal guidance has helped nursing homes, hospitals and other health facilities serving older adults, HUD-assisted communities have yet to receive the level of relief and resources necessary,” Sloan said. “We’re hopeful that this new bill will change that.”

Bill aims to ensure elder abuse training materials include individuals with dementias

In other senior-related legislative news, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) last week introduced the “Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act,” with companion legislation being introduced in the House by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA). The bipartisan legislation is designed to ensure that the Department of Justice’s elder abuse training materials take into account individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

According to Collins, about 10% of adults aged more than 60 years have experienced some form of elder abuse. Estimates place that number at just over 50% for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The bill would require the DOJ’s national elder justice coordinator to consider people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias when creating elder abuse training materials, require the DOJ to consult with stakeholders in developing those materials, and include information on where to access these materials in the DOJs annual report. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be increased risk for elder abuse, inducing elder financial exploitation. Our bipartisan bill would help the ensure that the frontline professionals who are leading the charge against elder abuse have the training needed to respond to cases where the victim or a witness has Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia,” Collins, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease and chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said in a statement. 

The bill builds on the “Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act” of 2017, which required the DOJ to create training materials to help criminal justice, healthcare and social services personnel assess and respond to elder abuse cases. The bill also aligns with the latest recommendations from the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease to disseminate information on abuse and to educate law enforcement about interacting with individuals with dementia.

The legislation is endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, as well as the bipartisan Elder Justice Coalition.

“Elder abuse committed against a person with Alzheimer’s disease is a compound tragedy,” EJC National Coordinator Bob Blancato said in a statement. “It is critical we provide the necessary training materials to anyone who responds, investigates or prosecutes such cases, which this bill will do.”

Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association chief public policy officer and AIM executive director, said the legislation would protect the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia from elder abuse and “improve the quality of interactions with the professionals seeking to support them.”