From Senator Amanda Ragan –
Thousands of older Americans face abuse, neglect and exploitation every year. Some are particularly vulnerable because they depend on others to help them with the most basic activities of daily living. With about one-fifth of Iowans over age 60, issues affecting seniors are increasingly important. With this in mind, the Legislature has taken the following steps over the past two years:
• Protecting seniors from financial exploitation: Many seniors give power of attorney to someone they trust so that person can make financial decisions on their behalf, including managing their money, paying their bills and purchasing necessities. Power of attorney is exercised responsibly by most Iowans, but there is growing evidence of unethical people who prey on vulnerable seniors. The Iowa Uniform Power of Attorney Act will help prevent this exploitation. AARP has hailed the new law as “the most important tool Iowa can use to combat the devastating problem of financial exploitation of elders.”
• Cracking down on elder abuse: We defined elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation in Iowa law and allow victims to secure protective orders to stop the abuse. In addition, new funding for Aging & Disability Resource Centers will be used to prevent elder abuse and to help victims.
• Enhancing patient advocacy: To better address long-term care concerns, two new positions have been added in the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman: a specialist to assist those discharged from long-term care facilities; and a certified volunteer long-term care ombudsman to coordinate and train local volunteer advocates.
• Trusted assistance for those in need: Many vulnerable adults have no one to turn to for help managing their physical health or financial resources. To ensure all Iowans have access to trustworthy and confidential assistance, we reopened the Office of Substitute Decision-Maker, which was closed due to budget cuts during the recession.
• Ensuring high-quality services: We made services and funding more available so that those seeking to maintain their independence can stay in their own homes and avoid moving to expensive care facilities.
The Senate is moving forward to establish a comprehensive system to prevent elder abuse, provide community support, offer legal options when intervention is necessary and go after those who hurt vulnerable older Iowans.