WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s bipartisan legislation to protect seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias from harm and exploitation is heading to the president’s desk to be signed into law after the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill yesterday. The Promoting Alzheimer's Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act, which is also sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and passed the Senate unanimously in August, will ensure that the Department of Justice’s elder abuse training materials take into account individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. 

“I watched my mother struggle and ultimately succumb to Alzheimer’s, and it pains me that a growing number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s and dementia are at risk of potential abuse, neglect and exploitation,” said Sen. Menendez. “I am thrilled that our legislation is now heading to the president’s desk for his signature.  This bill will ensure those with AD/ADRD are able to live with dignity in safe and healthy environments, while providing critical education and training to caregivers, health providers and law enforcement. I applaud the House for passing this bill and hope the president signs it without delay.”

Approximately one in 10 seniors aged 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. For people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, the prevalence is much higher, with some estimates putting it at just over 50 percent.   

Specifically, the Promoting Alzheimer's Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act would:

  • Require that the National Elder Justice Coordinator take into account people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias when creating or compiling elder abuse training materials; 
  • Instruct DOJ to consult with stakeholders, as appropriate, in developing these materials and to review and update existing materials; and
  • Include information in DOJ’s annual report about where to access the publicly available training materials.
“As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of my top priorities is protecting our seniors against abuse,” said Sen. Collins. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be increased risk for elder abuse, including elder financial exploitation. Our bipartisan bill will help to 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.” 
“We ought to do all we can to ensure the Justice Department is well-prepared to respond to crimes involving Alzheimer’s patients and folks with other forms of dementia. These cases can be particularly challenging at each stage, from investigation to prosecution,” said Sen. Grassley. “This legislation will strengthen our collective response to these crimes, which are unfortunately all too common. I’m glad the House passed this important bill and look forward to it being signed into law soon.”

The bill builds on the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which became law in October 2017 and required DOJ to create training materials to help criminal justice, health care, and social services personnel assess and respond to elder abuse cases.  It also aligns with the latest recommendations from the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which include disseminating information on abuse of those with dementia and educating law enforcement about interacting with these individuals.

The legislation is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, Elder Justice Coalition, American Geriatrics Society, American Society on Aging, B’nai B’rith International, Gerontological Society of America, International Association for Indigenous Aging, Jewish Federations of North America, Justice in Aging, LEAD Coalition (Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease), National Adult Protective Services Association, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A), National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, and SAGE: Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders.

“I want to thank Senator Collins for her leadership along with Senator Menendez and Senator Grassley for their efforts to introduce and ensure passage of the bipartisan Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer's Association chief public policy officer and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) executive director. “Thanks to this important bipartisan work, this new law will better equip emergency personnel and other professionals to work with and support individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia who are at heightened risk for abuse, leading to higher quality outcomes for individuals with dementia."