Some forms of elder abuse are now elevated to a felony crime in Minnesota. A bill that passed with overwhelming support in the Legislature and was signed April 18 by Gov. Dayton increases penalties for those who intentionally abuse vulnerable adults.

"Our cherished elders need to feel safe and secure and deserve this extra level of protection," said Miller. "It's difficult to imagine a caregiver or relative of a vulnerable adult depriving another person who is frail or suffers from physical or mental disabilities of food or healthcare or proper hygiene, but it is happening more and more often as our population ages."

The new law makes a person guilty of a felony "who intentionally deprives a vulnerable adult of necessary food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, or supervision, when the caregiver or operator is reasonably able to make the necessary provisions" and if the caregiver knows or has reason to know the deprivation could likely result in substantial bodily harm or great bodily harm to the vulnerable adult or the deprivation occurred over an extended period of time.

If the conduct results in great bodily harm to the vulnerable adult, the penalty is imprisonment for not more than 10 years or payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both; or if the conduct results in substantial bodily harm to the vulnerable adult, the penalty is imprisonment for not more than five years or payment of a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

The new law goes into effect Aug. 1, 2012.