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Bills aim to strengthen elder abuse protections

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A package of bills being considered at the State Capitol aims to strengthen protections for people over the age of 60.

The bills were up for a public hearing Wednesday, Nov. 14. The three bills – AB 480, AB 481, AB 482 – create increased penalties for elder abuse cases, give more strength to financial institutions to halt or delay potentially fraudulent activity of an account belonging to someone over the age of 60 and also gives those institutions more avenues of communication to flag and handle that suspicious activity.

Elder abuse cases have seen a steady rise in the state in recent years. According to the Department of Health Services, reports of elder abuse grew from 5,144 reports in 2008 up to 8,803 reports in 2018.

“For every case that gets reported of elder abuse, it’s estimated that there are about 24 cases that go unreported,” said Sen. Patrick Testin (R – Stevens Point) in the public hearing.

AARP was one of the groups that testified in support of the bills.

“I was very happy to see that we’re finally taking a look at this,” said Helen Marks Dicks, the State Issues Advocacy Director for AARP Wisconsin.

Dicks encourages people to share their stories of elder abuse with legislators, because the issue is more widespread than what statistics may say due to the stigma of the issue.

“Older people are very concerned that if they admit they fell for a scam or if they got involved in any of these things that people are going to question their mental capacity,” Dicks told CBS 58. “And their ability to make their own decisions is going to be taken away from them.”

Some groups that testified in the public hearing suggested that changes be made to the bills before moving forward. Those suggestions were acceptable to advocates like AARP. Lawmakers will consider those changes before holding a vote in an executive session in the coming months.

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