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For Older Iowans

Iowa is an aging state. Iowa ranks 16th in population age 50 or older, with approximately 1.1 million Iowans age 50 or older. Iowa also consistently ranks in the top five for the oldest population coming in at fourth place for population age 75 or older. Add to this the very rural nature of our state, and we become a breeding ground for abuse.

Elder abuse is underreported and under-recognized in Iowa, just as it is across the nation. The 2010 National Elder Mistreatment Study found one in ten seniors reports being abused, neglected or exploited in the past twelve months. Older Iowans experiencing health concerns or disabilities are more susceptible to exploitation and neglect. That's because they depend on others and are often unable to adequately protect themselves or even think about escaping from an abusive situation.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that an incredible 90% of abusers are family members or “trusted others,” adding to the complexity of this already difficult situation.

What is elder abuse?

Here are some facts, definitions and resources from the National Council on Aging.

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Perpetrators can include children, other family members, and spouses—as well as staff at nursing homes, assisted living, and other facilities.

  • Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
  • Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
  • Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, or intimidation.
  • Confinement means restraining or isolating an older adult, other than for medical reasons.
  • Passive neglect is a caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
  • Willful deprivation means denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device, or other physical assistance, and exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm—except when the older, competent adult has expressed a desire to go without such care.
  • Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another.

What are the warning signs of elder abuse?

  • Physical abuse, neglect, or mistreatment: Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, burns
  • Emotional abuse: Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, or unusual depression; strained or tense relationships; frequent arguments between the caregiver and older adult
  • Financial abuse: Sudden changes in financial situations
  • Neglect: Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unusual weight loss
  • Verbal or emotional abuse: Belittling, threats, or other uses of power and control by individuals

What are the effects of elder abuse?

Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated. While likely underreported, elder financial abuse costs older Americans $2.9 billion per year. Yet, financial exploitation is self-reported at rates higher than emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.




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Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106


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