What is "elder abuse"?
As provided in Iowa Code 235F, elder abuse means any of the following:
1. Physical injury to, unreasonable confinement, punishment or assault of a vulnerable elder
2. Sexual offense with or against a vulnerable elder
3. Neglect by a caretaker of a vulnerable elder
a. Includes the deprivation of the minimum food, shelter, clothing, supervision, or physical or mental health care necessary to maintain life or health
4. Financial exploitation of a vulnerable elder.
Who is considered a vulnerable elder?
A vulnerable elder means a person sixty years of age or older who is unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse as a result of age or a mental or physical condition or because of a personal circumstance which results in an increased risk of harm to the person.
Did you know that the elderly poor are at greater risk of financial exploitation than the wealthy?
Many low-income older Iowans are financially exploited by caretakers, family and "friends". Approximately 8,195 reports of alleged dependent adult abuse or neglect were made to the Iowa Department of Human Services between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. After filing a claim, an abused or neglected dependent adult has less than a five percent chance of formal litigation taking place.
Prior to 2014, the only options for victims of elder abuse were through the Iowa Department of Human Services, or taking the expense of hiring a private attorney to file a lawsuit against an alleged abuser which might cost more than what you can recover...if you win.
Now, Iowa Code 235F comes to the rescue. This new law broadened the definition of abusers to include persons beyond just the caretaker. Iowa attorneys can now utilize a relatively new action called a 235F petition for relief from elder abuse. Unlike a traditional civil action that can take more than a year before it’s tried, a petition for relief from elder abuse hearing shall be set between five and 15 days after commencing a proceeding and notice to the other party. Also, there is extremely little formal discovery in these cases based upon the Iowa Supreme Court 2019 ruling in Struve v. Struve. (Good case to read for explaining the law.)
Moral of the Story:
Don’t try and pull a fast one on your grandma. Iowa is closing loopholes in elder abuse situations. No longer is it only the “caretaker” that can commit elder abuse. The “abuser” can be a family member, spouse, child, neighbor, friend, etc.