“We must have an honest discussion on the differences between ‘elder abuse’ and ‘dependent adult abuse.’ These are not the exact same thing though they have overlap. To properly protect older Iowans from elder abuse, we must understand the differences and the systemic limitations.“
Joe Sample, i4a Executive Director
The Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging (i4a) released its 2020 policy priorities today with its top agenda item focused on differentiating elder abuse from dependent adult abuse. The distinction is being made because Iowa’s system of elder justice needs additional clarity and systemic change to address elder abuse when dependent adult abuse is not applicable. I4a encourages legislation that establishes specific penalties for assault, theft, financial exploitation, consumer fraud, and other acts of elder abuse. The policy agenda handout provides educational information about the differences between elder abuse and dependent adult abuse. Also see a recent i4a blog post on this topic.
Additional policy priorities focus on improving community-based supports and services for those served by Iowa’s aging network, which includes Iowa’s six Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). The aging network has successfully supported older Iowans in returning to their communities of choice through the Return to Community pilot program, funded through State appropriations, and through hospital-to-community transitions. An Iowa Department on Aging progress report on the Return to Community program indicated that 91% of those participating in the program have successfully discharged from a facility when goals are met or additional services are provided. Because of this success, i4a supports a $400,000 increase in State appropriations for the Return to Community program.
Iowa’s aging network has been engaged in hospital-to-community transitions projects for many years. Transitional support projects and programs include health coaches, community health workers, and options counseling services. Transition programs have included collaborations with healthcare systems, hospitals, and public health collaboratives, such as through the State Innovation Model (SIM).
Iowa’s Area Agencies on Aging provide information and services to older Iowans, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers that help them remain in their communities of choice and live as independent as possible for as long as possible. Federal and State appropriations, along with local public and private funding, bolster the AAAs ability to provide information and assistance, family caregiver services, congregate and home-delivered meals, evidence-based health promotions programs, as well as personal assistance services (e.g., home modifications).
In FY19, over 46,000 family caregivers access information and assistance from Iowa’s aging network. Further, Iowa’s AAAs provided Elder Abuse Prevention and Awareness services to 426 Iowans. The essential nature of these programs will continue to increase in demand through 2050 due to Iowa’s aging population (see Iowa State Data Center 2019 Older Iowan Report). Community living programs and services are funded, in part, through State of Iowa “Elderly Services” appropriations. Because services provided by the AAAs are essential in addressing critical aspects of social determinants of health for older Iowans, adults with disabilities, and family caregivers, i4a supports an increase of $400,000 in State appropriations for “Elderly Services.”
Appropriation discussions are set for later in Iowa’s legislative schedule, but i4a is encouraged by attention already being given to elder abuse issues. A bill has been introduced to target financial exploitation of older Iowans (Senate Study Bill 3076), which i4a supports.
“It’s a strong start in advocating for older Iowans who may be at risk for financial exploitation. We will continue to encourage that language related to the age of those defined under the legislation aligns with the Older Americans Act, but we are pleased to see attention being given to elder justice issues.” Joe Sample, i4a, Executive Director