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Protecting Iowa’s elderly

Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 11:13 a.m. CST

This past week the Iowa House of Representatives amended and passed Senate File 2239 which creates a new code section dealing with topic of Elder Abuse.  This bill, if enacted, would add protection for vulnerable elders who may be abused or taken advantage of by others.

In addition to providing criminal charges for someone who commits financial exploitation of a vulnerable elder, the amended version of Senate File 2239 would also allow defenseless senior citizens to get a protective order against their abuser.

In recent weeks, the Iowa General Assembly has dealt with a variety of legislation designed to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens in the state.  Dealing with sensitive issues such as human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors have been at the forefront of this year’s legislative agenda.  Now the focus has turned towards protecting our senior citizens from abuse and exploitation.

For the purpose of legal clarification, the bill defines “vulnerable elder” as a person who is 65 years or older who is unable to protect themselves from abuse as a result of a mental or physical condition, including advanced age.

The new legislation outlines elder abuse as one or more of the following situations:

• The non-accidental infliction of bodily harm on a vulnerable elder by a caretaker

• Commission of a sexual offense with or against a vulnerable elder

• Neglect, such as the deprivation of the minimal food, shelter, clothing, supervision, physical/mental health care, etc. by a caretaker

• Financial exploitation of a vulnerable elder

Obviously, caretakers will not be held accountable when carrying out the wishes of a living will, such as withholding medical care of an elderly person who is terminally ill or honoring an elderly person’s end-of-life care due to personally held beliefs previously expressed.  Also, those who have made a good faith effort in assisting an elderly person’s financial affairs, at their request, will not be held liable.

The intent of this legislation is to send a clear message that the physical abuse and financial exploitation of Iowa’s defenseless senior citizens will not be tolerated and that there will be severe consequences for those convicted of violating our aged citizens.

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Please feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise.  You may do so either by phone at (515) 281-3221, e-mail at greg.heartsill@legis.iowa.gov, or when visiting the Capitol.

I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback.  Also, if you would like to subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter, please send a quick note via email and I’ll put you on the list.

It is truly an honor to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature.

Until next time, God bless!