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Recent Pennsylvania Elder Law Legal Updates

July 3, 2018

Many people may think of “elder law” as pertaining to estate planning, estate taxes, and wills. However, an elder law attorney does much more than that; an elder law attorney ensures the wellbeing of their elder clients and seeks to help improve their lives.

There are a couple of recent updates to the elder law that relates to wellbeing and improvement in elderly individuals lives. Although they may not be the traditional areas that must believe relate to elder law, they are incredibly helpful in protecting and assisting elderly clients’ way of life.

The Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act

Elder abuse is a major issue in our country, necessitating the creation of laws to protect those members of society that cannot always protect themselves. Elder abuse includes not only forms of physical violence, but also includes emotional abuse, financial abuse and deception, and health care exploitation.

Unfortunately, most of the abusers take the form of family members and caretakers. Because of this, strict elder law statutes were created to penalize those entrusted individuals that took advantage and abused their wards. In October 2017, President Trump signed Senate Bill S. 178 into federal law. This bill is called the “Elder Abuse Prevention and Protection Act.”

This act allows Assistant U.S. Attorney’s in each federal judicial district to investigate reports of abuse by caretakers and guardians. The U.S. attorneys will be able to have full access of the Federal Bureau of Investigation resources and created a network of individuals that they can share information with across districts. This means that caretakers cannot simply move districts or states and be able to abuse their patients again.

What This Means for You

Although the act does not change how guardians are awarded in the state of Pennsylvania, it does require the process to look out for potential abuse. The Department of Justice will be reviewing the guardianship process and petitions more thoroughly and seek to eradicate the potential of elder abuse and abuse of the guardianship system.

Lastly, this act protects elders in two more ways. First, telemarketing scams receive harsher penalties if they manipulate a person 55 years and older. Secondly, any e-mail scams that are targeted at elderly individuals are treated harsher under the act. Elder law has positively expanded with the signing of this bill. Now caretakers and exploitative family members will hopefully be deterred from this type of terrible abuse.

Medical Treatment of Minors

This may seem like an issue not related to elder law, however, this issue is a common problem in Pennsylvania. Grandparent’s and elderly caregivers are more and more playing a huge role in their younger family member’s lives and young children’s lives. It is a very common situation for a young adult to ask their parents to raise their child so they can continue with school or work. These elderly individuals caring for young children are known as “kinship caregivers,” and one of the primary responsibilities is to take care of the young child’s medical care.

Before the Pennsylvania Medical Consent Act, only parents or a guardian could authorize medical care. This made getting medical care for a grandchild very difficult for a grandparent when the child is in their care. If the parent of the child is not able to be found and left the child with the grandparents, the grandparents used to have to file for guardianship before any medical treatment could be authorized.

Now, the Act allows a child’s parent or legal guardian to authorize a “kinship caretaker” to authorize medical, dental, or mental health care. The parent or guardian can complete a simple form and give it to the elderly caretaker. This means even if the child is in the grandparents’ custody for the weekend, the grandparent does not have to hesitate to seek medical attention if necessary. This act truly recognizes the importance of grandparents and elderly caretakers in a child’s life. In this case, both children and elderly individuals are protected from archaic practices.

NOTE: This blog is for informational use only and does not constitute legal advice.