By State Rep. Anita Kulik
The pandemic affected all of us, but some were affected even more due to their special circumstances. Eldercare, in particular, was and has been a subject of great concern and discussion, all through the pandemic.
The quality of care in nursing homes and hospitals, safe staffing, the lack of familial contact, among other matters, are all issues that have been discussed at great length over the past year. The COVID pandemic brought many issues to the forefront of discussions in Harrisburg.
Many of the solutions that had been put in place during the pandemic are now being considered to be made permanent.
One particular issue that needs to be addressed, and hopefully will be discussed at length when the General Assembly returns to session, will be telemedicine. Telemedicine has been allowed in Pennsylvania because of the pandemic, but there is yet no specific law that would permit the practice to remain in place after Sept. 30.
On that note, there is also nothing that would necessarily stop the practice of telemedicine.
We are already used to talking to our doctors over the phone when we have a cold or pain and may just need some simple advice or a simple prescription. Telemedicine is an extension of that and could cause more of us to actually contact a doctor when we are not feeling well.
With changes in technology and the need to provide healthcare to underserved areas, it would appear that telemedicine is something to be made permanent.
Statutes that are in place already provide for criminal penalties for physical abuse of care-dependent persons by the caretakers to whom they have been entrusted.
House Bill 1431 has been signed into law and adds that a caretaker is guilty of abuse of a care-dependent person if, with the intent to ridicule or demean a care-dependent person, they use any audio, video or still image of the care-dependent person in any format or medium.
Whether they would use an electronic service, or wireless communication, or any form of electronic service or wireless communication, transmission with the intent to demean is a criminal act. A violation of this part of the statute will constitute a misdemeanor of the third degree.
When I would speak to a client about preparing a Power of Attorney for them, I always explain what authority that person is handing over to the person they appoint as their attorney-in-fact.
It is also important to make sure the person who is being given the power of attorney understands their obligations to the person giving them the authority. For example, there is to be no commingling of funds, no using that person’s funds for their own gain, etc. If there is a violation of the responsibilities of the attorney-in-fact, the person giving the authority, or another family member, can take that person to court and ask that the person be relieved of their appointment.
HB 1429 now makes it a criminal offense to financially exploit an older adult or care-dependent person. A person in a position of trust who commits the offense of financial exploitation of an older adult or care-dependent person shall be subject to specified criminal penalties, ranging from a felony of the first degree to a felony of the third degree depending on the amount of money involved.
Too many times we see older persons or care-dependent persons have people in trusted positions take advantage of the person, with too many incidents of money being long gone before anyone realizes what has happened.
New bills continue to be circulated by the House and Senate that will be considered by committees in the upcoming months.
One such proposed bill addresses a problem that I believe needs to be considered.
Distracted driving has already been addressed by the General Assembly.
We can all agree that looking at one’s phone, texting or watching a video, along with trying to put on makeup or even eat are dangerous activities while driving.
But what about distracted walking?
A new proposed bill would add criminal penalties to persons who cause accidents because of distracted walking. We see it all the time – people watching their phones instead of traffic.
Too many times people using their phones or other interactive devices walk right into moving traffic, becoming hazards themselves, and causing accidents.
The reality is that new technology tends to bring new hazards.
For information on these or other bills or information on any state-related matter, reach out to your local State Representative or Senator. As always, I appreciate your thoughts on any of the matters of pending legislation.
A Kennedy resident and attorney, State Rep. Anita Kulik has served Pennsylvania’s 45th House District since 2017.