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Minnesota senator proposes bill to protect vulnerable seniors

A senator from Minnesota has proposed legislation that is meant to protect seniors, the disabled and other vulnerable people from neglect and abuse by their guardians. To address these issues, United States Senator Amy Klobuchar held a discussion recently in an assisted-living facility in Duluth. She thinks new legislation is necessary based on recent governmental reports, her experiences as a Hennepin County attorney, and the troubles of a Saint Paul woman whose mother was taken advantage of by her guardians.

At the round-table discussion, the Saint Paul woman related how her 82-year-old mother's guardians took her out of a Twin Cities assisted-living facility and moved her to her rural Minnesota farm. The daughter said that her mother suffered from diabetes and dementia, but her guardians hired caregivers who were not licensed. Taking from the elderly woman's accounts, the guardians misused funds by writing $60,000 worth of checks to themselves or to "cash." They also limited family visits and waited until after the woman's cremation to inform some family members that she had even died.

In response to the daughter's harrowing story, Senator Klobuchar had this to say: "It's great she has brought the issue to the forefront. There are crooks out there, and they are going to take advantage of people."

The proposed bill is called the Guardian Accountability and Senior Protection Act. It aims to provide funds to help state courts improve procedures with regard to adult guardianship and conservatorship. The law would also provide for a test program for doing background checks on anyone who seeks to be made a conservator or guardian. Right now, Minnesota is one of only 13 states that require such a check. Additionally, the proposed bill aims to promote technology in order to monitor, report and audit conservatorships.

"We have all these amazing tools," said the senator, "let's use them."

Source: Duluth News Tribune, "Klobuchar's bill aims to protect seniors, vulnerable people," Jan. 7, 2012

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