Connections is one of six Area Agencies on Aging in Iowa working to keep older Iowans independent, healthy, and thriving in the environment of their choice. Our Elder Abuse and Awareness program is the selected program designee for funds donated through 2017 Pottawattamie Gives!
Everyone, no matter the age, has the right to live with dignity in a safe environment. Elder Abuse is a growing, under-reported need and often hidden issue within our communities. Connections Area Agency on Aging strives to educate seniors, caregivers and the general public about types of abuse, signs that abuse may be occurring, and possible interventions when abuse is suspected. Our Elder Rights Specialists have many roles, including speaking about the topic of elder abuse, the current scams, developing and working with local community coalitions to address and reduce the occurrences of abuse. They also meet one-on-one with victims and their families, interceding with needed services and support, to prevent further abuse (including self neglect).

This June, Connections Area Agency on Aging will be commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day with special events in Council Bluffs, Creston, and Sioux City. Learn more about these on our website. Join us in wearing purple on June 15th to show your support of Elders and their rights to live with optimum well-being, dignity, and safety!

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. Perpetrators 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.

Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Social isolation and mental impairment (such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease) are two factors that make older adults vulnerable to abuse. Recent studies show that nearly half of those with dementia experienced abuse or neglect. Interpersonal violence also occurs at disproportionately higher rates among adults with disabilities.
"I'm not lonely or hungry anymore!" says Ed as he speaks of the work his Elder Rights Specialist did on his behalf. "I was left alone after my spouse died, without an income, without transportation since I don't drive, and without any company at all because I lived in a very rural area." Our Elder Rights Specialist stepped in, helping Ed to replace his birth certificate, apply for Social Security, secure income-adjusted housing close to local business and friends. He is loving his Meals on Wheels for the hot meal and the daily friendly face too!

"A peaceful life is what I needed!" declares Sally as she smiles in her new apartment. "I lived constantly in fear once my boyfriend moved into my previous home. He was always angry and threatening me with violence. I am so thankful for the help that paid the deposit for my new apartment and for my new friend/staff member who continues to check up with me!"

"Bedbugs have infested my home!" Connections Area Agency on Aging has quite a number of these calls that continue to increase each year. Bedbugs do not discriminate - no matter the economic status, the ethnicity, or cleanliness/uncleanliness factors. Extermination is expensive, especially for those with limited incomes or even for our limited funds. Your contribution can be used to exterminate these troublesome critters, help with the clean-up needed prior to extermination, and/or replacement of infested furniture such as beds, chairs or couches.

"I don't want my family to get into trouble" is a common reason we hear when allegations of elder abuse are made. Katherine, who is 82, raised two grandsons since they were young children. When neighbors kept hearing screaming at Katherine's home, our Elder Rights Specialists were called. They and the police went to investigate. Katherine's grandson had returned home as an adult, and during his drunken fits was demanding Katherine give him money. He was also pushing and hitting Katherine when she didn't comply with his requests. "I was in a living hell, but felt that I needed to help him since he is my grandson - and I certainly don't want him to go to jail." Answers aren't always easy, but having the listening ear, good legal counsel, and the support of our staff made the difference for Katherine.

"I hate that Elder Abuse occurs," commented one of our staff members, "and it's even more complicated when a case involves multiple family members, some of whom may be involved in the allegations of abuse." When the economy is difficult or the family economics are unstable, the elder member is at risk for financial exploitation since they have a consistent monthly social security or retirement income. Many believe that without their families, they would be doomed to be moved out of their homes (and communities) into a nursing home. Through education and counseling, our specialists can assist victims to get the supportive services they need to remain independent.