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An elderly woman receives a nurse's assistance. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – Iowa legislators are considering several bills to protect senior citizens.

Two pairs of proposed separate legislation deal with establishing new protocols and additional appropriations for the state’s Office of Long-term Care Ombudsman.

SF 429 was introduced Feb. 22, and companion bill HF 118 was introduced in the House Jan. 21.

Proposed requirements for the office would include holding meetings with all staff at least quarterly, assigning cases to local long-term care ombudsmen based on geographic territory, and ensuring each ombudsman makes unscheduled non-complaint related visits to at least 20% of long-term care facilities, assisted living programs and elder group homes in the territory annually.

The office would also need to implement policies that ensure timely visits to residents and tenants, maintain a “vibrant” certified volunteer long-term care ombudsman program, ensure the ombudsmen have any necessary vehicles and coverage of related expenses so they can fulfill their duties, as well as provide public notice for any reorganization of the office or outsourcing of duties or staffing.

The bill appropriates $173,486 from the state’s general fund for two full-time positions.

Another set of bills, SF 200/HF 474, appropriates $300,000 for the office for the upcoming fiscal year “to increase the number of local long-term care ombudsmen.” SF 200 was in subcommittee Feb. 3.

Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, sponsored SF 2278, which SF 429 mirrors, last year. The bill was discussed in subcommittee in February 2020 before dying in the Senate.

SSB1082, which is currently in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, would raise the penalties for crimes against seniors and provides minimum sentencing for offenders.

“Elder abuse is one of the most under-recognized and under-reported social problems in the U.S., including in Iowa,” Public Policy Director for the Alzheimer’s Association Iowa Chapter Robyn Mills said in a news release. “This legislation protects all older Iowans from all forms of abuse committed in all settings.”

The Senate’s Committee on Commerce approved SF391 (companion bill HF 258) Feb. 17, which specifically addresses financial exploitation of people 65 and older. If it became a law, broker-dealers and investment advisers would be required to begin an internal review of a requested disbursement or transaction if they believed the disbursement or transaction would likely result in financial exploitation. The broker-dealer or adviser could notify the commissioner of insurance or third party if they suspected financial exploitation, and they would be required to confidentially provide the commissioner records for investigations of the exploitation in certain circumstances.

The Department of Human Services’ spokesman, the Iowa Department on Aging and the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman did not respond to requests for comments on the ombudsman legislation.

The Iowa Attorney General’s website recommends reporting elder abuse in various ways depending on circumstances.

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