It’s frustrating that Iowa, a state with a rapidly growing senior and elderly population, doesn’t already have a law focused on elder abuse — that is, a comprehensive law that specifically addresses the unique needs of all older adults who are victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Iowa does have a more general dependent abuse law dealing with cases of physical or sexual abuse, financial exploitation and denial of care. But for the Iowa Department of Human Services to intervene in cases of suspected abuse under that law, there must be:
• A dependent adult: Someone whose mental or physical condition makes him unable to perform or obtain services necessary to meet his essential human needs and depends on the assistance of another person.
• A caretaker: That other person, related or non-related, who has the responsibility for the protection, care and custody of the dependent adult.
• A specific allegation of physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, financial exploitation, denial of critical care by the caretaker or self-denial of critical care by the dependent adult.
Thus, the current system, unfortunately, does not address the needs of older victims of abuse or exploitation who are not considered “dependent” and who do not have a specific “caretaker.” Nor does the current law address the needs of seniors and elderly persons who are the victims of constant verbal or psychological abuse or abandonment.
Unfortunately, groups and organizations — such as the Elder Abuse Intervention Coalition and the Heritage Agency on Aging — are finding that without a more comprehensive law in place, a growing number of very troubling cases of elder abuse are falling through the societal cracks. And various studies of elder abuse over the past decade suggest that for every one case of elder abuse actually reported, there are somewhere between five and 14 case cases that go unreported.