|Older Issues Forum Shines Light on Elder Abuse|
Older Issues Forum Shines Light on Elder Abuse
By Lynda Waddington
September 27, 2007
Although a meeting with Iowa's senior citizens began with Rep. Tyler Olson providing an overview of accomplishments from the last legislative session, it ended with him gaining insights into elder abuse.
"People not only came, but they had a lot of questions and comments," said Olson, a Democrat who represents Cedar Rapids. "I hadn't heard as much about elder abuse as I heard this morning. There were a couple of comments during the discussion, but also two or three people caught me before the meeting and told me I needed to work on it."
Elder abuse is one of those issues that too often not openly discussed, said retiree and Johnson County AARP Chairwoman Eve Kasserly.
"Elder abuse is a dirty secret we don't talk about," she said during the forum. "It is like child sexual molestation was 20 or 30 years ago. We want to believe that something like that couldn't possibly occur, so we just sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't happen. That doesn't make it go away."
Kesserly says one of the strongest things a perpetrator has in his favor is that victims will blame themselves.
"The seniors and even children who are abused would still rather be with the person who has abused than go out into the world alone," she said. "For seniors, there's also the issue of embarrassment. Like abused women, they often don't know what else is out there. So, [they often stay with] they devil they know."
Following the forum, Kesserly spoke at length about elder abuse and why she believes it should be a focus of the legislature.
"When it comes to elder abuse, anyone under the sun might be a perpetrator or a victim," she said. "If we live long enough, we all have the possibility of being victimized. The few outstanding cases we read about in the newspaper every now and then such as the old lady who is tied to a chair on her front porch when the family leaves for vacation aren't typical. Most the cases aren't that outstanding."
Abuse against elders can be mental, physical or financial. The latter was one of five priorities highlighted recently by the Older Iowans Legislature when they met earlier this month, Kasserly said.
"Name calling is one area," Kasserly said. "Another area is financial abuse. Often times as a person gets older, he or she is not so good with the numbers anymore and has to rely on others for help with bill paying and balancing checkbooks."
When older Americans turn to friends and family members for help with finances, there is always a possibility for abuse. The end result not only hurts the individual, but often becomes an added expense for taxpayers.
"Let's say that I'm having trouble with my finances and I turned to my cousin who lives across the street," Kesserly explained. "I give the cousin power of attorney and she sees this as an opportunity to raid my savings account, my checking account and maybe to claim my assets by changing them over to her name. Eventually she can get me artificially qualified to receive assistance something you, as a taxpayer, will pay for even though I might be able to pay for my own nursing home or medical care."
In addition to elder abuse, Olson says another issue brought to his attention because of the forum is the plight of older Iowans who suffer from mental illness.
"We need to look at what specifically we are doing for older Iowans and their needs when it comes to mental health," he said following the forum on Wednesday.
In addition to Olson, Iowa Department of Elder Affairs Director John McCalley and AARP Iowa Associate Director of Advocacy Anthony Carroll were a part of the panel that listened to the concerns of the senior citizens who gathered at the Witwer Senior Center in Cedar Rapids.
Local resident and former Linn County Supervisor Jean Oxley said she was pleased that Olson would organize such a forum to both listen to and provide information to constituents.
"This was very well received," she said. "We need to address senior issues. I was very glad to hear the input from our director of the Department of Elder Affairs and the AARP office. I also certainly commend Tyler Olson for organizing this. We do need to talk about home and community-based services to all our legislators. It saves money particularly in the Medicaid funding, which always gets overdrawn."Click here for the full story on Iowa Independent's site.
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