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MN Lawmakers Consider New Protections Against Elder Abuse

Minnesota is currently the only state that does not license assisted-living facilities. (Sabinevanerp/Pixabay)
Minnesota is currently the only state that does not license assisted-living facilities. (Sabinevanerp/Pixabay)
April 10, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As Minnesota lawmakers consider new legislation to help prevent incidents of elder abuse, a new report uncovers the troubling scope of the problem.

According to research released by Elder Voice Family Advocates, 128 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect have been reported at assisted-living facilities in Minnesota since 2015. The organization's president, Kristine Sundberg, described the cases as "appalling," and said they include sexual assault, medication errors and neglect.

"Things like staff leaving a resident lay on a floor after he has fallen, crawling around in his own feces," she said. "Yet they walk by, don't even acknowledge him - watch TV, read a magazine - and left the area several times."

More than half the incidents resulted in preventable hospitalizations and emergency-room visits, while one in three contributed to preventable deaths. House File 90 would strengthen protections for patients to prevent maltreatment and create a licensing framework for assisted-living facilities, similar to that of nursing homes. Minnesota currently is the only state that does not license assisted-living facilities.

Sundberg said licensure would create a standard of care for all residents of these facilities and would establish staffing standards and training protocols.

"A lot of what we're seeing happening is a result of poorly trained or untrained staff, or overworked staff that just can't handle the workload," she said. "And hence, we see the abuses and neglect happening."

Protections in the bill also would allow patients to have electronic monitoring in their rooms. It would prohibit deceptive marketing and prevent arbitrary discharge. Sundberg added that it also would prevent retaliation.

"So much is not getting reported because residents and their families are afraid to do so," she said, "because they often get retaliated against by the residence."

Some concerns have been raised about how additional requirements for staff will be met given current workforce shortages, as well as the need to evaluate the best way to transition the facilities into licensure.

The text of HF 90 is online at, and the report is at

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MN