Elderbridge hosts legislators

Elderbridge Agency on Aging hosted Iowa Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, and Iowa Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, at a legislative forum Wednesday on elder rights and other issues at the nonprofit’s Fort Dodge office.

The agency provides information, programs and services to help older adults and their caregivers remain independent, and has offices in Spencer, Mason City and Carroll.

“I call all of us the silent generation, the can-do generation that gets things done and rarely complains and rarely asks for help,” Mick Tagesen, Elderbridge executive director, said. “But it is okay to ask for help, and that’s why Elderbridge is here.”

Tagesen, detailing the history of Elderbridge and its recent reorganizational efforts, said the agency endeavors to be fiscally responsible while helping as many elderly as possible.

“We’re one nonprofit that you can look at and say there’s a substantial way we can prove to you we’re saving the taxpayer’s dollars by doing the good of the people,” he said.

Beall spoke on his experiences in the Iowa Legislature in aiding the elderly as well as his district and the state.

“We did expand Medicaid. We’re not calling it that, but that’s essentially what we did,” he said. “We did a lot of heavy lifting in the last session of the Legislature. Commercial property tax reform, education reform. We balanced the budget with no increase. In fact, we have almost, between our rainy day fund and our surplus, about a billion dollars in the bank. Iowa is one of the best managed states in the union.”

Beall addressed the issue of elder abuse, specifically keeping registered sex offenders out of nursing homes.

“We need to protect our most vulnerable,” he said. “We don’t want something like what happened in Pomeroy to happen again. We’re exploring a couple of things. The Iowa Health mental institutes might be a place. Given the nature of these, they need to be in a separate facility.”

In 2011, Pomeroy Nursing Home was court-ordered to house William Cubbage, who was convicted of sex crimes in 1987, 1991, 1997 and 2000. In Pomeroy, Cubbage targeted female residents. He has since been removed.

Miller concurred with Beall, and said that, while she is not serving on committees that focus explicitly on elder issues, empathizes with the concerns of the elderly.

“I am you,” she said. “Daryl and I are Medicare eligible. We get that. I had a mother who had Alzheimers, who was in a nursing home. I get that. I had a father who wound up, he was doing well, but he had to have surgery and went to a place for rehabilitation. I get that. I had a husband who died of cancer three years ago, who I took care of. I get that.”

Miller said elder abuse is a growing concern.

“It’s something the Legislature has really got to pay attention to, and pay attention to the abused in any and all of its forms, whether it’s financial, physical, mental, whatever,” she said. “It’s something we need to get ahead of … and I don’t want us to wait until something else happens.”

Beall applauded the agency and its volunteers for advocating elder rights and bringing attention to elderly issues.

“Thank you for putting a face, literally and figuratively speaking, on senior legislation,” he said. “I really do encourage you to continue to keep in touch, to put that face on the issue.