Pa. House OKs Bizzarro bill to protect against elder abuse

HARRISBURG, April 21 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, said the state House of Representatives today unanimously passed his legislation to provide extra protection against elder abuse committed by people acting with power of attorney.

“I am thankful that my colleagues realize the importance of protecting seniors battling dementia and other incapacitated Pennsylvanians who need someone to help with their finances in difficult times,” Bizzarro said. “Too often, cases of financial abuse go unreported, or those with power of attorney claim they didn’t know their actions could be considered criminal. Thanks to this legislation, we can give families peace of mind that extra steps have been taken to protect their loved ones’ finances.”

Bizzarro’s H.B. 299 would amend the state’s Power of Attorney Acknowledgment to indicate that failure to comply with the document’s directives could result in criminal charges against the person holding power of attorney. It would also allow area agencies on aging to access confidential records if the group believes a crime has been committed and can prove the elderly victim is mentally incapacitated.

In addition, the legislation was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to include a notice of the state Department of Aging’s elder abuse hotline (1-800-490-8505) to the person giving the power of attorney.

“Our state is home to two million senior citizens age 65 and older,” Bizzarro said. “It’s disgusting to think that there are people out there who would take advantage of our older Pennsylvanians. I am hopeful that this legislation will help bring awareness to this important issue and, ultimately, help cut down on elder abuse.”

Bizzarro introduced similar legislation last session, which passed the House. House Bill 299 now heads to the state Senate, where it awaits further review.