After McMaster death, Philly advocates say more must be done to protect seniors

Cherri Gregg
May 11, 2018 - 2:21 pm
senior care

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- This week a Philadelphia nurse was charged with neglect in the dealth of 84-year-old HR McMaster, Sr- the father of former national securty advisor to President Donald Trump. But what about the many cases of elder abuse and neglect that never get prosecuted?

Attorney General Josh Shapiro acknowledged Thursday that the case may appear to some to get more attention because of its high-profile nature, but he says, "We handle these cases all the same."

He says the problem is that "many of the district attorneys have not focused on the prosecution of these cases."

Lynn Fields Harris is executive director of Center in the Park and runs the long-term care facility ombudsman program for the Philadelphia Corporation of the Aging for seniors in Northeast and Northwest Philadelphia. 

"There are complaints of abuse against older adults that usually doesn't make the news," Fields Harris said. She says they receive hundreds of complaints a year. She says many facilities are understaffed and indequately trained.

"Resources are what's necessary," she said.

Karen Buck, who runs the Senior Law Center, says many district attorneys and attorneys general do not have units that focus on elder justice.

"This is a great first step for bringing attention," Buck said. "It is a lacking, we think, in the criminal justice system."

Diane Menio runs CARIE, a group that advocates for seniors. She says reform is needed to expand prosecution and investigation power to include abuse cases. Menio says most facilities are understaffed and there needs to be tougher requirements for training.

"Oftentimes the staff is overworked and they're not supervised well," Menio said. States must allocate more resources, and caregivers must do a better job of reporting problems, she said.

Other areas where advocates would like to see reforms include expanding criminal penalities for elder abuse. Shapiro is supporting Pennsylvania House Bill 1124, which would expand AG authority in this area.