Identifying and Preventing Elder Abuse

Feb 21, 2018

With age and illness, taking care of necessary, day-to-day tasks can become impossible. Many elders who receive help are especially vulnerable to abuse from caretakers.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe chats with Celene Gogerty, Polk County Assistant Attorney, about what puts older adults at risk and how to prevent abuse.

“Nationalized studies have indicated that 10% of elders will be abused,” Gogerty says. Still, only about 4% of elder abuse is reported.  

Abusers are motivated by greed as well as desires for power and control. This can play out in domestic violence, sexual assault, and neglect.

However, financial abuse is the largest problem facing vulnerable elders. Gogerty says she has seen entire life savings lost. This kind of abuse impacts life expectancy, with mortality increasing 300% for abused adults.

“The perpetrators of this are the ones sitting at your Thanksgiving table,” Gogerty says. She add that often, family members—especially adult children—are responsible.

Gogerty has advice.  One way to prevent elder abuse is creating a power of attorney. However, care should be taken to stipulate permissions, restrictions, and limits to prevent exploitation.

Families can also hire financial conservators. Financial conservators can handle everything from monthly bills to asset management for older adults.

Protecting elders, however, starts with listening to them. Gogerty says that even people with dementia know that they have been abused or that they are being stolen from.

Brandon Kranovich, Director of Health Center Operations at Wesley Acres in Des Moines, and Jodi Selby, a financial conservator, also join the conversation.