ST. PAUL, Minn. - Mary held up a picture of her father’s leg, though it no longer looked like a leg. She told lawmakers how her dad had been taken to an assisted living facility after an injury.

She said his wounds were always bandaged and the family was asked to leave the room when the dressings were changed. One day, she saw underneath.

“What I saw that day will forever be engraved in my memory.” The tendon and skin had so worn away, a hole had developed in his leg. She was able to see through to the wall. Finally, her father was rushed to an emergency room.

She told the story to the Senate Committee on Long Term Care and Aging as family advocates presented their recommendations for sweeping changes to tackle the problem of elder abuse and neglect in senior living facilities.

“It is my hope out of all of this that you will listen. And that when you’re elderly your voice will be heard and you will never ever have to suffer like my dad,” said Mary.

The committee hearing was called by Senator Karin Housley who vowed to bring change to a system that has left families devastated and frustrated by a lack of investigation and accountability when maltreatment is suspected in the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The AARP, Elder Voice Family Advocates, Minnesota Elder Justice Center, the Alzheimer’s Association and Legal Aid comprised a workgroup which prepared a 50-page report at the behest of Governor Dayton.

The report calls for a new licensing structure for Assisted Living and Memory Care facilities which would set minimum standards. It pushes for change in the Minnesota Department of Health which has failed to investigate most maltreatment complaints. And it calls for tougher penalties for both abusers and facilities who are held responsible for maltreatment.

Right now, Minnesota issues few fines to facilities that are found guilty of maltreatment. Fines range from zero dollars to a maximum of $5,000 in the case of a death.

“Change is urgent. My mom's life was worth more than zero dollars. We urge you to value the lives of all Minnesotans and increase the fines and penalties,” said Jean Peters of Elder Voice.

Housley and other Senators are preparing bills to address some of the key areas of concern. “This is the year something is going to happen,” said Sen. Jim Abeler.