(WKBN) – Right now, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a uniform background check process for people who work with older adults — but that could be changing.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging is looking to update the Older Adults Protective Services Act. The law was originally passed in 1987 to protect older people who are most vulnerable.

Carolyn Green, a spokesperson with the department, said when the law was originally written, it had a portion that regulated criminal background checks for employees. That part of the law can no longer be enforced.

“The commonwealth court determined that the employment ban provisions in the Older Adults Protective Services Act was unconstitutional, so we are not able to enforce that portion of the act,” she said. “Right now, facilities are interpreting it the best they can, so updating this act would allow for more uniformity and a clear understanding of what crimes should prohibit people from working with older adults.”

These criminal background checks help the facilities weed out employees who might commit elder abuse, which is on the rise.

The department of aging estimates cases of suspected elder abuse increased 80% over the previous five years. Largely, they say it goes unreported.

Older Adult Protective Services 2019-2020 annual report

According to the department of aging’s 2019-2020 annual report, women account for 64% of victims. Most commonly, female caregivers are the primary abusers.

“We see a lot of scams happening to older adults but, unfortunately, we do see family members taking advantage or caretakers taking advantage of older adults. Background checks could help eliminate staff that could currently be working with but have committed crimes the facility isn’t aware of,” Green said.

A draft of these changes is not available yet. We will continue to follow this possible legislation.