Sen. Mark Costello.

The Iowa legislature has unanimously passed a bill that expands the definition of dependent adult abuse. Senator Mark Costello, a Republican from Imogene, said it’s partly in response to the verbal abuse of mentally disabled residents at the state-run facility in Glenwood.

“Caretakers were swearing at the residents and had inappropriate sexual conversation with the residents,” Costello said. “…They were abusing them by repeatedly saying these things that were inappropriate.”

In this instance, Costello said the facility is being fined by federal officials for the workers’ verbal abuse, but current state law does not allow those workers to be charged with the crime of dependent adult abuse.

The other aim of the bill is to protect residents of nursing homes and other facilities from abuse that occurs on “social media.”

“There have been instances recently where a caretaker has taken photos of a resident that’s not sexual in nature, but it’s humiliating, degrading and shameful and the caretaker than texts or Snapchats or posts the photo on Facebook or something,” Costello said.

The bill passed the Iowa Senate today unanimously. It cleared the Iowa House a week ago on a 93-0 vote. Governor Branstad is expected to sign the bill into law and it will take effect on the day Branstad approves it.