Proposed law must protect dependents, caretakers


Lawmakers must be vigilant against potential unintended consequences of legislation. While a bill might be filed with the best intentions to help some Hoosiers, others could be damaged.

Such is the case with a bill currently under consideration in the state Senate. Targeting “self-dealing” caregivers who victimize dependents by taking their money, the bill would eliminate the minimum age (currently 60) of the victim and the $10,000 minimum for the crime to be considered a felony.

“We want people of all ages to be protected, and that’s why we took away ‘adult dependent’ and just made it ‘dependent,’” Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said. “The issue is whether or not you’re able and capable of making decisions on your own.”

Sounds like an important bill, right?

It is, but concerns about collateral damage could stall the legislation.

Bernice Corley, director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, shared those concerns with the senate committee considering the bill.

“We have an increasing number of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia,” she said. “We’re asking families to step up and take on this challenging role … (but) if you mess up and we disagree with your decision, we’re going to use the lowest measure of culpability to prosecute you.”

Corley said the bill failed to take into account, “ the informal ways that families take care of one another,” and could make well-meaning caretakers culpable.

She posed a hypothetical example: What if Grandma’s Social Security check was used to close in a sun porch at her daughter’s home to create a room for Grandma? Using the bill’s definition of exploitation, the daughter could potentially by charged with a crime.

State Sens. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, and Karen Tallian, D-Portage, expressed concern about the legislation.

“I think this bill as it stands may be overly broad and we may have challenges from family members down the road,” Glick said.

“I would like to see us work on this definition

of self-dealing a little bit,” Tallian added. “I will vote yes to keep this moving.”

Her position makes sense. Why kill this essentially good legislation in committee if it can be amended to protect caregivers?

Lawmakers will just have to make certain that amendments are made — and that no one’s going to go to jail over Grandma’s new room.

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